The world’s first Indigenous, exclusively health-focused TV network has officially been launched by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, with the help of Tonic Health Media.
In July last year, the federal government committed $3.4 million over three years to develop the targeted, culturally relevant Aboriginal Health Television (AHTV) network, which is expected to reach a First Nations’ audience of over 1.2 million people a month.
In launching AHTV, Wyatt noted the importance of the new network for the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) in Bunbury, Western Australia, which is one of the first 50 initial locations to install AHTV.
It is expected the network will be broadcasting in 100 locations by May 2019.
“The new network is an exciting step forward, built on local engagement, including local production of health and wellbeing stories, to reach the hearts and minds of our people and our families,” Wyatt said.
“AHTV is a truly unique, ground-up opportunity to connect at the point of care and build stronger, healthier communities.
Dr Norman Swan, co-founder of Tonic Health Media, who developed the not-for-profit network, said: “The fundamental idea behind AHTV is to provide engaging, appropriate and evidence informed health content to Aboriginal people while they are waiting to see their health professional.
“We have evidence that this period in the waiting area is a time when people are most open to information which can improve their health and offer relevant questions to ask their health professional when they see them in the next few minutes.
“Our aim is to offer AHTV as a free, fully maintained service to all Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) across Australia – around 300 locations – and it is already being rolled out, with SWAMS as one of our first.
“We know that our targeted messaging can make a big difference. There’s nothing like knowledge to give people control over their decisions.
“AHTV, guided by its advisory group of highly respected Aboriginal health leaders and researchers, will continue to work closely with Aboriginal Peak Health Bodies and ACCHOs to develop and deliver culturally relevant health messaging and lifestyle content.
“We are also partnering with third party content producers who specialise in Indigenous content to acquire and produce culturally relevant content.
Tonic managing director Dr Matthew Cullen said the partnership is an important step towards the media company’s goal of improving health outcomes for all Australians.
“AHTV provides a unique opportunity to communicate with Aboriginal audiences at the point of care when patients, their families, carers and health service providers are strongly focused on health and wellbeing,” he said.
AHTV advisory group member Associate Professor Chris Lawrence said the delivery of a culturally relevant TV network that connects with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will improve health outcomes.
“Australia has always been a world leader in health promotion. AHTV signals a new era in how health promotion messages are told and delivered to one of the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations,” he said.
“AHTV builds on this using digital technology to help close the gap, and improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.”
These sentiments were echoed by Lesley Nelson, NACCHO board member for WA, and CEO of SWAMS.
“Health promotion is a huge part of what we do at Aboriginal Medical Service across the country, and we welcome any opportunity to communicate these important health messages to our clients,” she said.
“The fact that the content has been tailored to suit our local Aboriginal community means that clients will benefit from health information that is relevant, culturally sensitive and meaningful to them.
“I strongly encourage Aboriginal Medical Service nation-wide to jump on board this fantastic initiative. We are also proud that SWAMS is the first location in Australia to have AHTV.”
Jake Thomson, an Indigenous community relationships manager for AHTV, said: “AHTV not only offers culturally relevant content, but it gives a voice to every community.
“By having the information they need, it will enable our people to consciously make the right choices which, in turn, will lead to better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
And that’s exactly the aim of AHTV. Its tagline ‘Live Healthy. Live Long. Live Strong.’ is the message that it’s here to deliver.