Bringing the message home : enabling urban aboriginal families for wholistic health

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McNeil, Karen Patricia
Health , Aboriginal
BACKGROUND: The health of Aboriginal children and families has been negatively influenced by existing social and economic disparities, dramatic lifestyle disruption, social marginalization, inactivity, dietary change, and lower rates of educational attainment (in comparison with non-Aboriginal populations). Interventions to reduce these risks should emphasize a wholistic approach, consistent with indigenous understandings of the interconnectedness of physical, spiritual, mental and emotional wellbeing. Some positive effects have been seen in family based interventions promoting health, however researchers do not yet know how best to leverage the influence of family through these interventions. This study takes a community-based participatory approach and ecological perspective to develop tailored strategies and resources to engage families in supporting wholistic health messages received through AKWE:GO (a community-based outreach program for at-risk urban Aboriginal youth). PURPOSE: To discover what activities families (i.e., parents and children) associate with wholistic health, as well as any barriers, facilitators, and competition faced when attempting to engage in health behaviours. Findings will be used to inform the development of take-home packages for AKWE:GO families promoting wholistic health. METHODS: Fifteen women and 4 men (most are parents of AKWE:GO participants), and 13 girls and 10 boys involved in the AKWE:GO program at the Native Friendship Centres in Kingston and Owen Sound participated in one of 6 sharing circles (4 in Kingston, 2 in Owen Sound). Adults and children attended separate circles, which were facilitated by the AKWE:GO coordinators. Sharing circle questions were centered on wholistic health and based on principles of social marketing. Discussions were recorded and subsequently transcribed. Inductive and deductive content analysis was performed, supported by NVivo 8 software. RESULTS: Findings from deductive analysis indicate that AKWE:GO families consider engagement in physical activity, traditional activities, healthy eating, budgeting, and meaningful conversation with significant others to be conducive to wholistic health. Inductive analysis of parent discussions revealed differences in community readiness between Kingston and Owen Sound. CONCLUSION: Results highlight the importance of considering population needs and community-readiness when developing health promotion strategies and resources for a given population.
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