The Strong Women’s Program is a Primary Health Care and Community Development program that works across two cultures.
The Program consists of Aboriginal Program Coordinators who recruit train and support Aboriginal Strong Women workers in communities to work with women and babies during pregnancy, birth and the early childhood years.
The program combines traditional Aboriginal women’s health practices and Grandmother’s Law with current western maternity and child health practices, to gain the best outcomes for mothers and babies, as well as for their families and community.
The origins of the program go back to 1989 when the Department of Health initiated a study of pregnancy outcomes in three Top End Communities: Milingimbi, Galiwinku and Wadeye.
This study indicated that 27.7 per cent of infants born in these communities were small for gestational age.
The risk factors identified for babies being born small for gestational age were malnutrition before and after pregnancy, and infection and substance abuse during pregnancy.
As a consequence of the study results, the Strong Women’s program was developed and trialled in Milingimbi, Galiwin’ku and Wadeye and led to a decrease in the rate of small for gestational age babies.
Following on from this study, the Strong Women’s Program was introduced in 1993 and has been running in up to 13 communities across the Northern Territory since that time.
The Program initially focused on five key areas:
Improving maternal nutrition;
Improving maternal physical, emotional and social well being;
Increasing protection and disease prevention for mothers and babies;
Caring for all the needs of mother’s and babies in communities; and
Sharing information across the program throughout the Northern Territory.
Over the years, this program has continued to incorporate evidence-based knowledge and practice to improve maternal and infant health outcomes.
It focuses on the prevention of chronic conditions starting in pre and post antenatal care, and addresses the social and environmental issues faced by women and babies in remote communities.
The Strong Women’s program has grown from strength to strength over two decades and the success and sustainability of the program has been largely due to the Department of Health’s Strong Women Coordinators and community based Strong Women workers, most of whom are here this evening.
The program has come this far through these women’s never ending dedication to the women and babies they work with in communities.