23 November 2015

Improving Indigenous health: Federal Government launches Implementation Plan to Close the Gap

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In October 2015, Federal Minster for Rural Health, Senator the Hon. Fiona Nash announced an Implementation Plan designed to help Close the Gap by improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

According to the Australian Bureau Statistics in their 2012-13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey showed that 41 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 15 years and older smoked on a regular basis while 30.4 per cent of children age 2 – 14 years old were classified as overweight or obese. Overall obesity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was also significantly higher than the comparable rates for non-Indigenous people in almost every age group.

The Implementation Plan is a ten-year road map: a strategy to better health for Indigenous children, youth and adults. In the interests of continuity, the Coalition decided to adopt and build upon the 10 Year National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (2013-2023), delivered by the previous Labour Government. While the original document was a high level strategic document, the Implementation Plan from the Coalition delivers detailed actions and achievable goals to bring about improvements in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“The release of this Implementation Plan is an important milestone in Indigenous health and the result of deep cooperation between the Government and Indigenous stakeholders,” Minister Nash said.

“The Implementation Plan includes 20 specific goals which will be used to measure outcomes in Indigenous health. It lays out goals in the areas of antenatal health, health checks, immunisation, smoking rates and diabetes. The Plan also lays down the changes needed to make the health system more comprehensive, culturally safe and effective for Indigenous Australians.”

Information released in the Overview of Australian Indigenous Health Statistics 2014 showed Indigenous mortality rates in Australia were 1.7 per cent higher than the mortality rates for non-Indigenous Australians. The figures draw a stark contrast when compared with republished estimates from the ABS in 2013, that showed an Indigenous male born between 2010-2012 could expect to live for 69.1 years, a 10.6 year difference to the expected 79.7 years for a non-Indigenous male, with Indigenous females born in the same time period having a life expectancy of 73.7 years in comparison to 83.1 years for non-Indigenous females.

The plan commits the sector, and the Government, to increasing the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-4 who have at least one health check a year from 23 to 69 per cent by 2023. It also aims to increase the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders youth who have never smoked from 77 per cent to 91 per cent by 2023 and the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders children who are fully immunised by the of 1 from 85 per cent to 88 per cent by 2023.

Working with Indigenous stakeholders was an important part of the development of the Implementation Plan to ensure the goals and plans outlined were achievable and culturally sensitive. Lowitja Institute Chief Executive Officer Romile Mokak has welcomed the Plan.

“The Government, through Minister Nash, has worked in genuine partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop an effective plan for achieving better health outcomes for our people,” Mr Mokak said. “From here, we must all ensure implementation of the plan, including addressing the wider social and cultural determinants of health and wellbeing.”

“The Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme is investing $3.3 billion over four years to support the continued delivery of services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly through Aboriginal community controlled health services,” Minister Nash said. “We are investing $94 million to expand efforts to improve child and maternal health through Better Start to Life; and $36.2 million will expand the Healthy for Life programme into a further 32 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations to better manage chronic disease.

Minister Nash acknowledged the work done in the Indigenous health space by former Indigenous Health Minister, Warren Snowdon, Senator Rachel Siewert, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals.

For further information on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 click here.

To read the Ministers press release, click here. 

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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