Although clinical data is not yet available, anecdotal evidence suggests The Foundation’s collaborative trial of a nutritional supplement called ‘Sprinkles’ is already improving the lives of Indigenous infants.
Eight remote communities have been taking part in the project which aims to combat chronic anaemia in Indigenous children under the age of two.
A project meeting was held recently in Batchelor, in the Northern Territory, for those involved in implementing the program at a community level.
Seventeen of the 21 community health workers, who are local Indigenous women working throughout the communities, came to share stories on the most significant changes they have witnessed since the trial began in May last year.
Development Coordinator for The Foundation, Danielle Aquino, says she received positive feedback overall from the community workers about the effectiveness of the supplement.
"At the meeting, community health workers expressed that they had witnessed improvements in the babies who have been participating in the Sprinkles program," Aquino says.
"Mothers of the children described them as being more active; they had ‘filled out' or gained weight, and many community workers said that, overall, the babies were happier and stronger."
Approximately 150 babies and young children aged between six and 24 months from communities including Jilkminggan, Borroloola, Balgo, Mulan, Engawala, Ti Tree, Pmara Jutunta, Kowanyama and Ngukurr have received Sprinkles over the course of the trial.
As well as giving Indigenous infants a better nutritional start to life, the program is also offering local women employment and training opportunities. Aquino says that these local health workers are an essential part of the success of the program.
"The community workers are very proud of their work and feel they are doing something positive in their community," she says.
"The benefit of local women being employed as community-based health workers is that it helps mothers of infants feel comfortable about discussing the sensitive issue of how they feed and raise their children.
"The community workers know the problems each of the mothers are facing and this builds trust within the community.
"A common problem they come across is often that mothers feel embarrassed and shy to discuss problems. The community workers are able to be kind and caring when they talk to parents and say ‘we are in the same boat and our kids are taking Sprinkles too'."
The Foundation has been the predominant sponsor of the trial which will run until mid-2012. Once clinical data is available later this year, The Foundation hopes the trial will lead to a more permanent practice to address anaemia within Indigenous communities.
Other organisations involved in the project include the Northern Territory Department of Health, Sunrise Health Service, Queensland Health, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council and Boab Health Services.
The Sprinkles supplement has been provided by Heinz Australia.
> Learn more about The Foundation's work in Indigenous Australia