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BMC Public Health. 2015 Mar 19;15:272. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1628-2.

The Healthy Migrant Families Initiative: development of a culturally competent obesity prevention intervention for African migrants.

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School of Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, 2751, NSW, Australia.
School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood, VIC, 3125, Australia.
School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood, VIC, 3125, Australia.
Raising Children Network, Parenting Research Centre Level 5, 232 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne, VIC, 3002, Australia.
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Flemington Road, Parkville, VIC, 3052, Australia.
Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne, Flemington Road, Parkville, VIC, 3052, Australia.



Although obesity among immigrants remains an important area of study given the increasing migrant population in Australia and other developed countries, research on factors amenable to intervention is sparse. The aim of the study was to develop a culturally-competent obesity prevention program for sub-Saharan African (SSA) families with children aged 12-17 years using a community-partnered participatory approach.


A community-partnered participatory approach that allowed the intervention to be developed in collaborative partnership with communities was used. Three pilot studies were carried out in 2008 and 2009 which included focus groups, interviews, and workshops with SSA parents, teenagers and health professionals, and emerging themes were used to inform the intervention content. A cultural competence framework containing 10 strategies was developed to inform the development of the program. Using findings from our scoping research, together with community consultations through the African Review Panel, a draft program outline (skeleton) was developed and presented in two separate community forums with SSA community members and health professionals working with SSA communities in Melbourne.


The 'Healthy Migrant Families Initiative (HMFI): Challenges and Choices' program was developed and designed to assist African families in their transition to life in a new country. The program consists of nine sessions, each approximately 1 1/2 hours in length, which are divided into two modules based on the topic. The first module 'Healthy lifestyles in a new culture' (5 sessions) focuses on healthy eating, active living and healthy body weight. The second module 'Healthy families in a new culture' (4 sessions) focuses on parenting, communication and problem solving. The sessions are designed for a group setting (6-12 people per group), as many of the program activities are discussion-based, supported by session materials and program resources.


Strong partnerships and participation by SSA migrant communities enabled the design of a culturally competent and evidence-based intervention that addresses obesity prevention through a focus on healthy lifestyles and healthy families. Program implementation and evaluation will further inform obesity prevention interventions for ethnic minorities and disadvantaged communities.

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