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Med J Aust. 2001 Oct 1;175(7):363-6.

Household infrastructure in aboriginal communities and the implications for health improvement.

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Menzies School of Health Research and Flinders University Northern Territory Clinical School, Darwin, NT.



To evaluate housing survey data, describe the state of household infrastructure in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory (NT), and to discuss implications for health improvement for people in these communities.


Quantitative analysis of survey data and qualitative analysis of the survey process.


All NT houses funded for repairs and maintenance through the Indigenous Housing Authority of the Northern Territory (IHANT).


Status of infrastructure necessary for four key "healthy living practices" (washing people, washing clothes and bedding, waste removal, and food storage and preparation).


3906 houses (79% of all houses funded by IHANT) were surveyed. Infrastructure components most frequently identified as not functional or not present were those required for the storage and preparation of food (62% not functional). The facilities required for personal hygiene and safe removal of human waste were not functional in 45%-46% of houses.


These findings highlight the significance of absent or non-functioning household infrastructure as a potential contributory factor in the poor nutritional status and high rates of respiratory, skin and gastrointestinal infections in Indigenous communities. The environmental health and housing survey in the NT is an important tool for monitoring progress on addressing a key underlying determinant of the health of Indigenous people, and potentially for facilitating research aimed at gaining an improved understanding of the relationship of the household environment to health in Indigenous communities.

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