Health, Well-being & Indigenous Health
Defining Health & Well-being
The World Health Organisation (WHO) definition of health suggests that health is a continuum and extends the notion of health to include states of positive well-being. Health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Throughout their lives, many Indigenous people suffer from major health problems because of poor nutrition. At birth Indigenous babies are generally much lighter than non-Indigenous babies.
After birth, most Indigenous babies grow well until they can no longer survive on breast milk alone. At this time, they need some solid food as well. Sometimes what they are given is not enough or not healthy, or perhaps is contaminated if they live in areas where there is inadequate housing, no sewerage, or no fresh water and at this time the children are at risk of catching infections. This can develop into a vicious cycle: the children are undernourished so their bodies cannot fight the infections, so they get sick, and when they are sick they are at risk of getting more infections because the food they eat is not making them strong enough to fight the infections. All this can prevent them from growing as big and strong as they could have been. This in turn can mean that mothers are not as strong and healthy as they could be, and this will have a bad effect on their babies.
From the time they become young adults, many Indigenous people start to gain a lot of weight, eventually becoming overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese is linked to many chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
The main reason for these problems of growth and nutrition is the social disadvantage many Indigenous people experience, namely low levels of education, high levels of unemployment, low incomes, and an unsatisfactory environment.
Two of the targets for ‘closing the gap’ between the health of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians — to increase Indigenous life expectancy and to reduce child and infant mortality — are related to nutrition and diet. However, improvements in nutrition will need to be accompanied by improvements in social disadvantage.
As stated in our mission policy, MWRSCAC strives to provide a plentiful supply of quality nutrition, health, and well-being strategies to continuously promote the benefits of healthy living to the Indigenous people we serve.