Date: 
Wednesday 11 February 2015

The Close the Gap Campaign is urging the Federal Government to focus on greater access to primary health care services to detect, treat and manage chronic health conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Campaign Co-Chairs Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker today released the 2015 Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report, to coincide with the Prime Minister’s annual report card to Parliament on progress made to reduce Indigenous disadvantage.

Key recommendations from the 2015 Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report include:

  1. That the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) findings are used to better target chronic conditions in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
     
  2. That the Australian Government continues to lead the COAG Closing the Gap Strategy.
     
  3. That the Australian Government restore the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee.

The Campaign has also called for clear alignment of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy with the Closing the Gap Strategy; restoration and increase of funding to vital Indigenous anti-smoking initiatives; development of a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and social and emotional wellbeing plan to complement others relating to general health, suicide prevention and drug use; new Closing the Gap targets to reduce imprisonment and violence rates; and a comprehensive Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

Mr Gooda, who is also Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, said the report identified high levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with undetected treatable and preventable chronic conditions that impact significantly on life expectancy.

“Armed with this data, the Campaign Steering Committee believes the nation now has a real opportunity to make relatively large health and life expectancy gains in relatively short periods of time,” Commissioner Gooda said.
 

“We have seen some gains in maternal and child health but without strong and sustainable commitment from Government to ensure chronic conditions are detected, treated and managed, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is in jeopardy.”

Ms Parker, who is also Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said there needed to be a clearer connection between the Australian Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy – which focuses on education, employment and community safety – and the national effort to close the gap in Indigenous health

“Employment, education and community safety are drivers of improved health and wellbeing. It is important to remember that good health contributes to positive outcomes in all these areas.

“In New Zealand, a four-year rise in Maori life expectancy was achieved after two decades of sustained national effort. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples could make similar gains before the early 2020s if the effort to close the gap in this country is maintained.”

Ms Parker said the Indigenous health sector is the biggest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, so greater investment in health services will result in increased employment for Indigenous Australians.

Ms Parker said effective implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan would provide an evidence-based approach to service delivery.

“The national health plan will be pivotal in our shared efforts to close the gap.

“It will allow us to map the current service capacity and health outcomes. It will allow us to identify the gaps and provide us with the data we need to make the best possible use of resources. But we must see continued investment right across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including for the national health plan, if we are to close the gap.”

Commissioner Gooda and Ms Parker said closing the gap in health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is an agreed national priority. 

“All political parties and almost 200,000 Australians have committed to end the health equality gap by 2030,” they said.

“With 15 years to go, we need to build on success. We need to continue the national effort as a priority and we need to expand and strengthen these efforts with bold policy initiatives.”

MEDIA CONTACTS: Dominic O’Grady for Mr Gooda. M: 0419 258 597. Mahala Strohfeldt for Ms Parker on 0457 877 408.

Read the report at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/close-gap-progress-and-prior...

 

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report 2015

1. That the findings of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) are used to better target chronic conditions that are undetected in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. In particular, access to appropriate primary health care services to detect, treat and manage these conditions should be increased. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services should be the preferred services for this enhanced, targeted response.

2. That the Australian Government should continue to lead the COAG Closing the Gap Strategy.

3. That the Australian Government revisit its decision to discontinue the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee.

4. That connections between the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and the Closing the Gap Strategy are clearly articulated and developed in recognition of their capacity to mutually support the other’s priorities, including closing the health and life expectancy gap.

5. That the Tackling Indigenous Smoking programme is retained and funding is increased above current levels to enable consolidation, improvement and expansion of activities until the gap in the rates of smoking between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people closes.

6. That proxy indicators are developed to provide insights into the use and availability of health services on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and life expectancy outcomes.

7. The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing provides the basis for a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and social and emotional wellbeing plan. This is developed and implemented with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy 2013 and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Drug Strategy implementation processes in order to avoid duplication, be more efficient, and maximise opportunities in this critical field.

8. That Closing the Gap Targets to reduce imprisonment and violence rates are developed, and activity towards reaching the Targets is funded through justice reinvestment measures.

9. That the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan include the essential elements:

  • Set targets to measure progress and outcomes;
  • Develop a model of comprehensive core services across a person’s whole of life;
  • Develop workforce, infrastructure, information management and funding strategies based on the core services model;
  • A mapping of regions with relatively poor health outcomes and inadequate services. This will enable the identification of services gaps and the development of capacity building plans;
  • Identify and eradicate systemic racism within the health system and improve access to and outcomes across primary, secondary and tertiary health care;
  • Ensure that culture is reflected in practical ways throughout Implementation Plan actions as it is central to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • Include a comprehensive address of the social and cultural determinants of health; and
  • Establish partnership arrangements between the Australian Government and state and territory governments and between ACCHS and mainstream services providers at the regional level for the delivery of appropriate health services.