Issue addressed: Access to meaningful health information is limited in remote regions of Australia where Indigenous languages and culture are strong but the prevalence of chronic conditions is extremely high. This qualitative study aimed to support and understand the evolution of an educational approach to improve communication about chronic conditions for Yolŋu (Aboriginal people of Northeast Arnhem Land).
Methods: Within a culturally responsive research design, data were gathered through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with educators and community members. An iterative and continuous process of data collection and inductive analysis, exploring key elements of the process as it evolved, supported the Project Team to modify and refine their approach as the project progressed.
Results: A high level of community participation and control was a critical element of the project. Collaboration between Yolŋu educators and community experts, with culturally competent support from others, enabled Yolŋu to share health information in ways that could not be achieved by outsiders. Yolŋu and biomedical knowledges were integrated to build and share meaningful, in-depth (not simplified or directive) oral explanations in local languages using culturally responsive communication processes. The urgent need for ongoing, sufficient and meaningful health education was a consistent and recurring theme in this context where chronic conditions are having a devastating impact.
Conclusion: Sustained and equitable access to meaningful information, using a culturally responsive approach led by community educators, is crucial to improve health literacy and to enable genuinely informed decisions in prevention and management of chronic conditions. Long-term funding is needed to support ongoing programs. These findings may have relevance for others who do not share the culture and language of the majority population.
So what?: Equity of access to meaningful health information through sustained support for community-led education processes is essential to improve First Nations health outcomes.