Physical activity programs run by local government, public health and not-for-profit sectors are a key public health strategy for improving rates of physical activity within local communities. However, these programs are underutilized. This is especially the case among members of refugee-background communities whose participation could have far-ranging and multilevel benefits. To explore how greater engagement among refugee-background communities with these programs could be fostered in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, a qualitative study was undertaken from the perspectives of both community-based physical activity program providers and agencies involved in delivering services to refugee-background communities. This study involved a series of semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of personnel from agencies that work with individuals and families from refugee-background communities and organizations that provide low-cost or no-cost physical activity programs and initiatives. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to interpret meaning from these data. Three themes relating to how participation in community-based physical activity programs could be improved among refugee-background communities were identified: improving cultural safety through intersectoral collaboration; confronting constraints imposed by the broader public health policy environment; and building capacity and empowering the community to diversify the sector. The findings highlight the importance of localized, deep-level intersectoral collaborations in bridging the gap between the health and social care needs of refugee-background communities and existing physical activity programs. However, a range of systems-produced barriers to the creation of such collaborations must be addressed to enable local actors to help mitigate and address the systemic exclusion of marginalized populations from participation in broader society.

This qualitative study explored how participation in community-based physical activity programs could be improved among refugee-background communities. To do this, community-based physical activity program providers and agencies involved in delivering services to refugee-background communities in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, were invited to participate in a semi-structured interview. Reflexive thematic analysis was then used to identify patterns and themes within the interview data. This analysis found that the cultural safety of community-based physical activity programs needs to be improved. From participants’ perspectives, a good way to do this is through genuine collaboration between services providing community-based physical activity programs and those working directly with refugee-background communities. Relatedly, however, participants experienced the broader public health policy environment as increasingly bureaucratic and market orientated, where top-down models are adopted and funding is ad hoc and insecure. This environment was identified as constraining the ability of service providers and agencies to collaborate on the level required to improve cultural safety for members of refugee-background communities. Relatedly, the analysis also identified the importance of building the capacity and empowering members of refugee-background communities for diversifying the sector and increasing the participation rates of refugee-background communities in community-based physical activity programs.

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