Can integrating Aboriginal health content in undergraduate nutrition curricula foster student cultural capabilities?

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The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Curriculum Framework (2014) identifies the need for Australian higher education providers to develop health professional students’ cultural capabilities. This study investigated whether integrating the Framework’s learning outcomes into undergraduate nutrition curricula changed higher education students’ self-rated cultural capability learning. A sample of 105 Bachelor of Nutrition Science students were eligible. Students were invited to complete a survey prior to and after receiving Aboriginal health curriculum integrated across four of six units of first-year study. The survey included five questions on student characteristics and prior experiences relating to Aboriginal peoples and a Cultural Capability Measurement Tool (CCMT) that has 11 items on knowledge, nine on attitude, three on confidence and two on commitment. An additional ‘nutrition importance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health score’ determined attitudes towards learning about Aboriginal health. Baseline and follow up surveys were completed by 53 students (50% of the baseline cohort) and 35 students (39% of 90 students enrolled at follow up) respectively. Matched data were available for 22 students. An increase in students’ total CCMT scores (sum of 25 items) occurred from baseline [median (IQR) = 83.36 (76.14,91.38)] to follow up [median (IQR) = 95.85 (84.16,103.62)], p =.001 together with an increase in students’ nutrition importance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health scores from baseline [median (IQR) = 4.25 (3.5,5.00)] to follow up [median (IQR) = 4.93 (4.02,5.00)], p =.020. Baseline total CCMT scores were higher in students who received Indigenous education at school [median (IQR) = 85.12 (77.87,95.26)] compared to those who did not [median (IQR) = 77.68 (68.50,86.47)], p =.020. Educators should recognise that students commence university with varying baseline knowledge. This study showed students had some self-rated learning in relation to the learning domains of the Framework. Further research is warranted to measure multiple levels of demonstrated learning using a greater variety of methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325–340
Number of pages16
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Cultural capability
  • curriculum
  • health professional education
  • Indigenous health
  • nutrition

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