Healthy living practices

As part of their work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Indigenous Environmental Health Practitioners (IEHPs) promote and educate community members on actions they can take in the home to stay healthy and safe. These actions can be adapted for local contexts from the nine evidence-based Healthy Living Practices (HLPs) developed by Healthabitat through its Housing for Health program [47329]. The nine HLPs are:

  • washing people
  • washing clothes and bedding
  • removing wastewater safely
  • improving nutrition – including the ability to store, prepare and cook food
  • reducing the negative health impacts of overcrowded housing
  • reducing the negative effects of animals, vermin or insects
  • reducing the health impacts of dust
  • controlling the temperature of the living environment
  • reducing hazards that cause minor injury (trauma) [47329].

These practices help to stop the spread of germs (viruses and bacteria) and parasites, and are based on best-practice public health knowledge on the link between poor health and the living environment. For example, inadequate housing and a lack of home health hardware (plumbing, taps, showers) [33342] can significantly contribute to the high rates of skin infections and chronic diseases such as scabies, trachoma and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in remote communities [43907] [46646]. Applying the HLPs and adapting them to local contexts, helps to reduce infections such as diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory, skin, eye and ear infections (such as otitis media), and other communicable diseases [46908] [46239].

Prevention is a key focus for IEHPs who promote general hygiene and hand washing programs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including hygiene sessions at schools with a focus on maintaining healthy skin [46239] [44447] [46908].

A long-running and successful hygiene campaign in Australia involves the trachoma mascot, Milpa the Goanna, and the Clean Faces, Strong Eyes program, which has been promoted throughout remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities since 2008. With its Six Steps to Stop Germs message and a new app developed for school children and educators by Indigenous Eye Health in 2021, Milpa’s campaign continues to play a central role in environmental health promotion, particularly in efforts to eliminate trachoma in remote communities [46646].


Key resources



Seven sisters by Josie Boyle

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