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Falls prevention in Aboriginal communities with Boab Health Services

Injury Matters spoke to Sarah Ludowici, Exercise Physiologist at Boab Health Services in the Kimberley, about her experience delivering their past Move Your Body grant and advice for others thinking about applying for a Stay On Your Feet® grant.

Boab Health Services is a not-for-profit healthcare organisation that aims to promote healthy lifestyle choices throughout the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Boab Health Services successfully received a Move Your Body grant in 2022 to deliver an exercise-based falls prevention program for Aboriginal people living in the remote Indigenous community of Bidyadanga.

The Bidgy Fit program, a community-led and exercise physiology-supported exercise program, was expanded to conduct weekly strength and balance sessions at the re-opened local Aged Care Centre. The program concluded with an ‘Elder’s Olympics’, filled with fun games for program participants.

What made you apply for a Move Your Body grant?

“The Move Your Body grant was an opportunity to address the needs of the Elders in the community. I have been fortunate enough to spend time in a remote Indigenous community, seeking to learn, listen, and understand the community’s needs. The bigger picture of my role is to support place-based care and include sustainable avenues for incorporating movement.”

What benefits have you seen in your community?

“The Elder’s Olympics harnessed the competitive spirit of the community to get them moving, laughing, and socialising. The benefits that I see are individuals increasing their agency over their health, interacting with others, faster recovery times from injury, and social-emotional wellbeing.”

“A big win was hearing other service providers say they had never seen certain individuals so happy.”

What was been your biggest challenge in implementing your Move Your Body grant program?

“Collecting data, language barriers, participant expectations, and different world views made it difficult to understand needs, but also to collect the relevant clinical information and pre- and post-data that is useful for funding bodies.”

What is your advice for others applying for a Stay On Your Feet® grant?

“Where possible, really spend time with the community and people who will benefit from the grant and identify what their needs are.”

“For those delivering a grant in a similar setting, I would recommend spending some time developing resources, including questionnaires that are culturally appropriate, and in the relevant language or pictorial versions.”

What is your advice for anyone else wanting to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older adults to prevent falls?

“Make it fun, make it playful, and make it relevant to the activities they love. The community I work in are a combination of saltwater people and desert people. As a result, fishing and catching goanna are relevant activities that can be practised and completed in a way that is meaningful to preventing falls.”

“Building relationships is important, so understand what the participants love.

Why is it meaningful to them to prevent falls? Perhaps it is to maintain autonomy, get out and watch community sports, or run after the grannies. Perhaps it is to simply get out and be with others. Seeking to understand is key to creating an activity that meets the needs of the community.”

As for the most rewarding part of the Move Your Body grants project. Sarah said this was “seeing the smiling, happy faces of the participants.”

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