The strong family program: An innovative model to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and elders with reproductive and sexual health community education
Aboriginal youth in Australia often experience higher rates of family violence and poorer reproductive and sexual health than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. To address some of the disparities, the Strong Family Program was developed to deliver reproductive and sexual health education to Aboriginal communities in New South Wales.
Development of the program was based on an extensive consultation process with Aboriginal communities. It was implemented in three communities, with two groups from each hosting Aboriginal youth and Elders in a yarning circle within the culturally respectful frameworks of ‘men and boys’’ and ‘women and girls’’ business. An evaluation was conducted to measure reproductive and sexual health knowledge and attitude changes upon program completion, using pre- and post-program surveys and yarning (focus group discussions). The Strong Family Program relied on the leadership and involvement from Aboriginal communities, with program content and delivery based on Aboriginal pedagogy and reflecting Aboriginal cultural values.
Among participants aged 20 years and under, there was an increase in knowledge. Among participants aged over 20 years, there was an increase in positive attitudes. Participants perceived the information provided to be useful and relevant, with many reporting improved knowledge and attitudes around rights and respectful relationships.
The authors concluded that reproductive and sexual health education in Aboriginal communities should be based on community consultations and carried out within a culturally appropriate framework to promote greater success. It is believed that the continued implementation of the Strong Family Program will promote increased understanding of respectful relationships and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal young people.
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