Developing low back pain information for Aboriginal Australians: are there lessons for elsewhere?

We developed low back pain (LBP) information for Aboriginal Australians. Aboriginal Australians experience a higher burden of illness and are more likely to report LBP; reducing this burden is an important priority.  A cornerstone of evidence-based LBP care is providing patients with meaningful evidence-based information. However, existing information tends to be “western-centric” and may be unsuitable for Aboriginal people.

The information was developed as five audio-visual stories, aligning with Aboriginal cultural traditions in which information is conveyed via storytelling. Stories were acted and filmed with ‘community actors’ who were Aboriginal people from the community. Stories targeted different populations; young men, young women, middle aged men, middle aged women, and community elders. The process was guided by an Aboriginal reference group who contributed cultural knowledge, and a technical reference group made up of people with expertise in LBP research/practice. The information can be viewed here.

We found in our evaluation that most Aboriginal people preferred these resources and appreciated seeing “Aboriginal faces”.  However a small number preferred traditional written information highlighting how clinicians need to be aware of individual preferences for information and communication. There’s much more to do in Aboriginal musculoskeletal pain care and this is one small part.  Our project raises the question of whether a similar approach; engaging closely with the population of interest and their knowledge systems, targeting information to meet the cultural needs of the population, and using stories to convey information, would be useful in developing information for other people and cultures?



Dr. Ivan Lin is a researcher/academic with the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, Australia, physiotherapist for an Aboriginal health service, and completed his PhD with the Pain-Ed Team at Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

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