Diet, diabetes and relatedness in a central Australian Aboriginal settlement: some qualitative recommendations to facilitate the creation of culturally sensitive health promotion initiatives

Health Promot J Austr. 2009 Dec;20(3):202-7. doi: 10.1071/he09202.


Issue addressed: At the request of chronically-ill Aboriginal patients in Central Australia with whom I have worked for the past 25 years, ethnographic research was conducted to provide a better understanding of how diabetes sufferers cope with their illness in everyday life for the creation of more culturally sensitive health promotion initiatives.

Methods: Based on analyses of participant-observation data and semi-structured interviews over an eight month period with 84 Aboriginal diabetic sufferers and their kin, as well as conversations with medical staff working at the local clinic, this paper discusses contemporary Aboriginal contemporary dietary practices, postcolonial demand-sharing economy, deployment of various regimes of care and health promotion initiatives.

Results: Diabetic patients lack access to what is determined key by health care providers to offset ill-health such as diabetic-friendly food. In order to cope and make sense of their chronic illness, diabetic patients oscillate between different regimes of care - biomedical, demand-sharing economy, and traditional and Christian religious institutions.

Conclusion: To ensure a certain measure of success, long-term health promotion initiatives need to be grounded in a Warlpiri caring praxis of 'looking after', and rely on realistic collaborations among patients and their kin, local health care providers, and other community-based organisations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cultural Competency*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology*
  • Diet / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Middle Aged
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group*
  • Young Adult