Multi-mln-dollar study to tackle food security concerns in remote Australian Indigenous communities

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-08 14:12:20|Editor: zyl
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SYDNEY, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- With up to two thirds of Indigenous Australians in remote communities facing food security issues, the University of Queensland (UQ) is set to lead a new multi-million-dollar study which may provide vital answers to fixing the growing problem.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the 2 million Australian dollar (1.37-million-U.S. dollar) study which also involves the Apunipima Cape York Health Council and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), will be conducted over a three-year period.

"Food insecurity leads to hunger, anxiety, poor health, including under-nutrition, obesity and disease, and inter-generational poverty," Dr. Megan Ferguson from UQ's School of Public Health said on Wednesday.

"We will be working with communities to identify effective mechanisms to improve food security and enable healthy diets in remote Australia."

In the first phase of the research, the team will examine how price discounts, offered via loyalty cards, impact on the affordability of a healthy diet.

When the study moves on to phase two, researchers will capture participants' experiences through photographs, which will then be used to develop a "knowledge-sharing framework of solutions."

According to CAAC Congress chief executive Donna Ah Chee, increasing poverty and high food costs have become the key causes of food insecurity Down Under.

"We have high rates of iron deficiency anaemia in women and young children and we know this is caused by inadequate iron in the diet," she said.

"Iron-rich foods are very expensive in remote communities, and it is believed this is a key factor in causing the deficiency."

"The study will enable key foods to be reduced in price and determine the impact this has on their consumption and subsequent health concerns. It will also enable the issue of food security to be more widely discussed."

While some estimates state that around 31 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities are affected by food security concerns, Ferguson suspects the figure may actually be as high as 62 percent.

"Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and carers of children aged under five, will be involved in the study in Central Australia and Cape York," she said.

"Improving food security for the whole family, especially women and children, will improve diet quality and health, and give children the best start in life for generations to come."