The “ripple effect”: Health and community perceptions of the Indigenous Marathon Program on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, Australia

Rona Macniven, Suzanne Plater, Karla Canuto, Michelle Dickson, Josephine Gwynn, Adrian Bauman, Justin Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Issue addressed: Physical inactivity is a key health risk among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Australians. We examined perceptions of the Indigenous Marathon Program (IMP) in a remote Torres Strait island community. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with community and program stakeholders (n = 18; 14 Indigenous) examined barriers and enablers to running and the influence of the IMP on the community. A questionnaire asked 104 running event participants (n = 42 Indigenous) about their physical activity behaviours, running motivation and perceptions of program impact. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic content analysis, and quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics. Results: Interviews revealed six main themes: community readiness, changing social norms to adopt healthy lifestyles, importance of social support, program appeal to hard-to-reach population groups, program sustainability and initiation of broader healthy lifestyle ripple effects beyond running. Barriers to running in the community were personal (cultural attitudes; shyness) and environmental (infrastructure; weather; dogs). Enablers reflected potential strategies to overcome described barriers. Indigenous questionnaire respondents were more likely to report being inspired to run by IMP runners than non-Indigenous respondents. Conclusions: Positive “ripple” effects of the IMP on running and broader health were described to have occurred through local role modelling of healthy lifestyles by IMP runners that reduced levels of “shame” and embarrassment, a common barrier to physical activity among Indigenous Australians. A high initial level of community readiness for behaviour change was also reported. So what?: Strategies to overcome this “shame” factor and community readiness measurement should be incorporated into the design of future Indigenous physical activity programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-313
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
  • physical activity
  • program evaluation
  • qualitative methods
  • quantitative methods


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