An innovative research project that counters negative stereotypes about young Indigenous men has been shortlisted for a 2019 NT Men’s Health Award.
The study into health literacy among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island males in the Northern Territory was co-led by Professor James Smith and Mr Jason Bonson of the NT Department of Health who chairs the Darwin Indigenous Men’s Service.
Our level of “health literacy” is known to be one of the factors that influences our overall health and wellbeing and can be shaped by factors such as age, gender, education, geography, social economic status and indigenous status.
The research team, which included five Indigenous male researchers, set out to understand how gender and culture shape the health literacy of young Indigenous males aged 14-25 living in the Northern Territory.
The aim was to get a better understanding of how these young men think about health; to test whether existing health literacy tools were relevant to this group and to identify ways to strengthen programs and policies that target young Indigenous men across a range of settings including health, sport and recreation, education, justice, employment and community services.
According to the researchers, the young men in study think about their health from both Western and cultural perspectives and their health literacy is influenced by both gender and culture. In the words of the researchers: “alternative constructions of (Indigenous) masculinities impact on their understanding of health and subsequent attitudes towards health behaviours, including help-seeking and health service use”.
Importantly, the young men and boys in the study “expressed a holistic understanding of their health (including reference to multiple social determinants of health), and a willingness to seek help and engage in health education”.
Furthermore, the researchers highlighted the importance of “recognising key milestones and celebrating positive achievements” to support the life aspirations of young Indigenous males and “further challenge negative public perceptions and stereotypes among this vulnerable population”.
The researchers say the study has helped build relationships with a range of community-based organisations working with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males.
The findings were published last month and have already been presented at numerous events and conferences including:
- The World Health Promotion Conference in New Zealand
- The Native American and Indigenous Studies International Conference in New Zealand
- The Lowitja Institute International Conference on Indigenous Health and Wellbeing,
- The NT Dept Health during NAIDOC week
- The NTPHN Health Literacy Forum in Darwin
- An NT Stakeholder Forum in Darwin
The researchers say have put in place a strategy to help the knowledge they have gathered to be translated into practice. The study has also provided a strong foundation for developing practical strategies for improving programs and policies targeting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in health, sport and recreation, education, justice, employment and community services contexts.
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