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Aussie-FIT aiming to improve health outcomes for Indigenous men in the NT

Jackson Clark -

A brand new footy-themed, group-based health promotion program will be offered to adult males in the Northern Territory throughout 2024.

The program – called Aussie-Fans In Training – aims to improve health outcomes for all men, but particularly Indigenous males aged between 35 and 75.

The National Men's Health Strategy 2020-2030 acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men live significantly shorter lives than other men.

Recent data from the NT reveals a life expectancy of 65.6 years for this population, which is 15.4 years lower than when compared to the non-Indigenous males.

Researchers have been working with local stakeholders, including a community advisory group of majority Indigenous men to establish the program, which is scheduled to commence in February.

The Darwin Buffaloes – a club with a high percentage of Indigenous men – are the first NTFL club to partner with Flinders University to host the program, demonstrating their commitment to social and community impact and eagerness to support the health of their male footy fans.

Project co-investigator and Buffaloes Premier League coach, Cameron Stokes says that the club is proud to support the health and wellbeing of men in the community.

"Aussie-FIT will be a chance for our fans to reconnect with the club, recognising the important role that our club plays in the lives of so many men and their families," Stokes said.

Members participating in a similar program held at the Claremont Football Club. (Image: www.aussiefit.org)

The program will be delivered by local club coaches and Indigenous men Brenden Petterson and Vic Williams.

It will be held at footy grounds and supported by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to ensure physical activity is completed safely, in accordance with participants' fitness levels and physical abilities.

Aussie-FIT will encourage men aged 35-75 to take control of their health and wellbeing in the fun, safe setting of local AFL clubs according to Dr. Bryce Brickley, Research Fellow (Men's Health) from the College of Medicine and Public Health in Darwin.

"The cardiovascular benefits of being active and eating a healthy diet are well established and it's really important that we work with the local community to deliver health programs that are appealing to men and will support them to live healthier and happier lives," Dr Brickley says.

"Aussie-FIT is a free of charge, evidence-based program that is unlike any other health initiative in Australia.

"It's also a chance for participants to meet like-minded men, in a supportive, easy-going and sport-focused atmosphere.

"For those who take part, we will assess heart health risk factors throughout a 12-month period to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and examine how we can set it up long-term in the community."

Noongar man, Ken Farmer participated in the program in Perth after suffering a series of health complications including a heart attack.

He is now a heart health advocate and said he would love to see more Indigenous men participating in the program.

"You do a bit of kicking, you do a bit of training, you have a good yarn then you go home," Farmer said.

"I think Aboriginal men would love being a part of something, AFL is a brilliant game for Aboriginal people.

"Any Aboriginal men who think about coming, just come along."

Aussie-FIT are now looking for men in the Northern Territory to join the program.

Registrations are being accepted via the Aussie Fit website.

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