To document nutritional status and health behaviours of young indigenous women of childbearing age in rural communities in north Queensland.
Cross-sectional survey of 424 Aboriginal and 232 Torres Strait Islander (TSI) women aged 15–34 years, conducted in twenty-three rural and remote communities of far north Queensland in 1999–2000, with follow-up of a smaller cohort (n 132) in 2006–2007.
Main outcome measures
Weight, waist circumference, intake of fruit and vegetables, smoking, alcohol intake, fasting blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, γ-glutamyltransferase, red cell folate (RCF), interval weight and waist gain and incidence of diabetes.
Forty-one per cent of Aboriginal and 69 % of TSI had central obesity, 62 % were smokers, 71 % drank alcohol regularly and of those, 60 % did so at harmful levels. One third of Aboriginal and 16 % of TSI women had very low RCF levels. In the group followed up, there was a mean annual waist gain of 1·6 cm in Aboriginal women and 1·2 cm in TSI, 0·5 kg/m2 in BMI and 1·5 kg in weight. Incidence of new type 2 diabetes mellitus in this cohort was 29·1 per 1000 person-years (py) (95 % CI 14·0, 52·8) in Aboriginal women and 13·9 per 1000 py (95 % CI 5·6, 28·5) among TSI.
High prevalence and incidence of central obesity and diabetes, poor nutrition, high rates of alcohol use and tobacco smoking together with young maternal age, provide a poor intra-uterine environment for many indigenous Australian babies, and contribute to high perinatal morbidity and future disability. Community level interventions to improve pre-pregnancy nutrition and health behaviours in young women are urgent.