Using Participatory Action Research to Develop Culturally Appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Resources

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Rachel Margaret Peake, SN, RN1
Kim Usher, PhD, MNSt, AM, RN, BADipAppSc (Nsg), FACN, FACMHN2
Jackie Lea, PhD, MN (Hons), BN, RN2
Debra Jackson, PhD, RN, FACN3
(1)School of Health, University of New England Armidale NSW Australia, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia
(2)School of Health, University of New England, Armidale, Australia
(3)Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery & Allied Health Research (OxINMAHR), Headington, Oxford, United Kingdom

Nationally, cardiovascular disease is responsible for 27% of the gap in fatal burden between Australian Indigenous and non-indigenous people. Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in Australia is thus a high priority (AIATSIS, 2012; Mikhailovich, Morrison, & Arabena, 2007).

One way to improve health is to have adequate health resources. Traditionally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities educate their people through stories and art and the lived experience of people in their community. Health literacy for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people needs to be developed using these approaches to make the resource more culturally appropriate.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the process of developing culturally appropriate localised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health promotion resources that are acceptable and sustainable for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of the Gamilaraay/Gomeroi people in the Peel and Mehi Sector of Hunter New England Local Health District. Thus gaining an understanding of the processes and collaborative approach involved in developing stroke health resources for the Gomeroi/Gamilaraay people.

The community wanted a research project that could plan for change by acting then reflecting on what they found and observing the consequences, to inform further action and change. The community used the analogy of the ever changing river system, never static always moving changing and evolving to make sense of what they wanted from the research project.

 Participatory Action Research (PAR) was used to guide the development of culturally appropriate educational resources. It was considered a collaborative and safe way to uncover vital information and concepts to underpin the development of health resources. PAR reflects the way Aboriginal people embrace learning through action, collective decision-making and empowerment, which occurs via group activity over time. The mutual inquiry and leaning experience in this study was aimed at reaching agreement and mutual understanding of the situation, resulting in an unforced consensus about what to do and what can be achieved together (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2005, p. 577).

 The paper will discuss the adoption of the PAR approach and describe how PAR helped to promote self-determination, self-reliance and the creation of a useful, localised health resource that is relevant to the community involved.