Rosemary Cadden reports from the CRANAplus conference in Darwin:

Engaging community members as ambassadors for social marketing campaigns is an important strategy for the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia.

Mary-Anne Williams, who has a nursing background and has worked for about five years at the AHCSA, spoke about the role of community members in social marketing.

She also highlighted the value of Facebook for connecting young people with social marketing messages.

“Facebook – it’s the way of the world, so we have to embrace it,” she said. “It’s been a really successful tool to get to young Aboriginal people.”

Campaigns involving community members as ambassadors include:

Keep it Corka (meaning “good” or “well”) which has 24 regionalised ambassadors to promote healthy eating, physical activities and tackling smoking.

“Using local ambassadors and their testimonies is a credible way of connecting health messages with communities – but you have to choose your ambassadors wisely,” Ms Williams said.

“They need to have good standing in their community and be committed to the cause they’re helping to promote.

“With ambassadors you have to also make sure you have a good mix – of age, gender and social backgrounds.”

As part of this project, the “Little Caravan of Fun” offers free training in healthy cooking and horticulture in 22 Aboriginal communities in SA, as well as enabling the distribution of practical resources to enable participants to practice healthy eating and gardening in their own homes.
Local community members are also being engaged in the creation of a cookbook featuring recipes from different communities across SA.

The Respect Test Campaign, a sexual health initiative, is involving students in helping to produce videos and posters. This is giving them valuable work experience, as well as providing useful resources for their communities.

Stickin it up the smokes [for strong & healthy bubs] faced some challenges in finding pregnant ambassadors who were not smoking.

“This made me realise the rates of smoking among pregnant women is much higher than recorded”, said Ms Williams.

The campaign posters were complemented by a booklet on the growth of the foetus and quit smoking tips.  This booklet used the testimony of local ambassadors, who delivered quit smoking messages by talking about their own experiences and motivations for quitting during pregnancy.

“People don’t often like being told what to do, so with our ambassadors doing the talking for us people could learn through their peers and make their own choices in an informed way.

The campaign also featured this film clip by Ellie Lovegrove.

The challenges faced by the campaign are illustrated by the fact that six of the nine ambassadors are now smoking again, after quitting while pregnant.

Ms Williams would also like to see social marketing campaigns targeting Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, immunisation, and health checks for children and adolescents.

She believes that solutions for Aboriginal health can only be achieved by local Aboriginal people controlling the process of health care delivery.

“Local Aboriginal community control in health is essential,” she said. “It allows Aboriginal communities to determine their own affairs, protocols and procedures.”

Ms Williams is passionate about getting more Aboriginal health workers trained and involved in community controlled health projects.

• Freelance journalist Rosemary Cadden and editor of the quarterly CRANAplus magazine is covering the conference for Croakey readers. Thanks also to photographer Rosey Boehm.

• You can track the CRANAplus conference coverage here.




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