A snapshot of physical activity programs targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia

Document Type

Journal Article


John Wiley and Sons, Ltd

Place of Publication

United Kingdom


Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet


Macniven, R., Elwell, M., Ride, K., Bauman, A., & Richards, J. (2018). A snapshot of physical activity programs targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 28(3), 185-206. Available here.


Issue addressed Participation in physical activity programs can be an effective strategy to reduce chronic disease risk factors and improve broader social outcomes. Health and social outcomes are worse among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders than non-Indigenous Australians, who represent an important group for culturally specific programs. The extent of current practice in physical activity programs is largely unknown. This study identifies such programs targeting this population group and describes their characteristics. Methods Bibliographic and Internet searches and snowball sampling identified eligible programs operating between 2012 and 2015 in Australia (phase 1). Program coordinators were contacted to verify sourced information (phase 2). Descriptive characteristics were documented for each program. Results A total of 110 programs were identified across urban, rural and remote locations within all states and territories. Only 11 programs were located through bibliographic sources; the remainder through Internet searches. The programs aimed to influence physical activity for health or broader social outcomes. Sixty five took place in community settings and most involved multiple sectors such as sport, health and education. Almost all were free for participants and involved Indigenous stakeholders. The majority received Government funding and had commenced within the last decade. More than 20 programs reached over 1000 people each; 14 reached 0-100 participants. Most included process or impact evaluation indicators, typically reflecting their aims. Conclusion This snapshot provides a comprehensive description of current physical activity program provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia. The majority of programs were only identified through the grey literature. Many programs collect evaluation data, yet this is underrepresented in academic literature. So what? Capturing current practice can inform future efforts to increase the impact of physical activity programs to improve health and social indicators. Targeted, culturally relevant programs are essential to reduce levels of disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders



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