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Staying Moving Staying Strong project delivers culturally appropriate health resources for mob

Rhiannon Clarke -

In an Australian first, culturally-suitable resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living with a variety of health conditions have been released by Arthritis Australia.

The newly-released materials, developed through the Staying Moving Staying Strong (SMSS) project, have been designed to assist Indigenous peoples who suffer from chronic health conditions including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout.

Arthritis Australia says Australia's Indigenous population faces significant challenges in accessing healthcare services, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities experiencing elevated rates of conditions including arthritis and autoimmune disorders.

They say the prevalence of arthritis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples stands at 17 per cent, compared to 13 per cent among non-Indigenous Australians.

To address the disparity, resources were developed by the SMSS project team in partnership with Arthritis and Osteoporosis Western Australia, with the support of Arthritis Australia and funding from the Commonwealth Government.

Physiotherapist, PhD candidate and proud Ngiyampaa woman, Brooke Conley said participating in the Staying Moving Staying Strong project was extremely rewarding.

"I hope to see the resources benefiting Aboriginal people by empowering individuals with knowledge and fostering self-management," Ms Conley said.

The partnership leading to the development of SMSS resources also involved engagement with Aboriginal community members and a review of clinical practice guidelines, resulting in several academic publications.

Marion, a Staying Moving Staying Strong project participant who lives with osteoarthritis used to think that the condition only affected the elderly.

When she experienced knee pain and difficulty keeping up with loved ones, she looked for answers, discovering that osteoarthritis can impact individuals of all ages.

"Look after yourself... (be) aware of prevention type stuff, eating the right food, doing the right exercise even down to buying the right shoes," she said.

"And ask the questions of your doctor 'are you sure it's osteoarthritis?'.

Marion says staying active reduces osteoarthritis pain. (Image: Staying Strong with Arthritis)

"You know if it is, 'okay what do I need to do?' what things can you take that are medicated but also natural stuff as well. We as Aboriginal people have our bush medicine, our emu oils and plant-based oils that help keep that pain away."

Arthritis Australia CEO Jonathan Smithers highlighted the importance of the resources to Indigenous Australians.

"The Staying Moving Staying Strong resources are an important step towards providing better health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with these often debilitating conditions," Mr Smithers said.

"We are incredibly proud of the work of the project team and grateful for the contribution of Aboriginal community members."

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia (WA Centre for Rural Health) and Curtin University also contributed as Staying Moving Staying Strong project partners.

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