Objective: To assess the long term effect of a nutrition program in a remote Aboriginal community (Minjilang).
Design: Evaluation of nutritional outcomes over the three years before and the three years after a health and nutrition program that ran from June 1989 to June 1990. Turnover of food items at the community store was used as a measure of dietary intake at Minjilang and a comparison community.
Setting: A community of about 150 Aboriginal people live at Minjilang on Croker Island, 240 km north-east of Darwin. A similar community of about 300 people on another island was used as the comparison.
Results: The program produced lasting improvements in dietary intake of most target foods (including fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread) and nutrients (including folate, ascorbic acid and thiamine). Sugar intake fell in both communities before the program, but the additional decrease in sugar consumption during the program at Minjilang "rebounded" in the next year. Dietary improvements in the comparison community were delayed and smaller than at Minjilang.
Conclusions: The success of the program at Minjilang was linked to an ongoing process of social change, which in turn provided a stimulus for dietary improvement in the comparison community. When Aboriginal people themselves control and maintain ownership of community-based intervention programs, nutritional improvements can be initiated and sustained.