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EVIDENCE OF GREATER GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT TO INDIGENOUS HEALTH BUT STILL MUCH MORE TO DO
AMA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Audit Report:
Progress to Date and Challenges that Remain
The AMA today released the AMA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Audit Report: Progress to Date and Challenges that Remain, which summarises the recommendations of the AMA Indigenous Health Report Cards over the past 10 years and analyses the major Government measures related to the recommendations that have been implemented.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the Audit Report shows evidence of a greater Government commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in recent years, with new programs and increased funding, but there is still much more to do to close the gap in health inequalities.
“The track record has been varied over the decade, but there has been building momentum in recent years,” Dr Hambleton said.
“In 2008, COAG made a commitment to close the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians.
“Broad goals to close the gap were set out, mainly in primary health care, along with general program objectives. To support these commitments, Australian governments undertook to provide $1.6 billion over four years.
“This funding better reflects the genuine needs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and must continue beyond 2013, when the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Health Outcomes expires.
“There is recognition of the important role of the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector and a modest boost to the workforce for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. This will improve with the implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework 2011-2015.
“The Prime Minister delivers an annual Closing the Gap speech, which provides greater transparency on Government action to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and there is also now a designated Minister for Indigenous Health. The AMA welcomes both these initiatives.
“We also welcome the formation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council and the current process for drafting the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Plan.
“Overall, there has been significant recent progress, but many challenges remain,” Dr Hambleton said.
Key findings of the Audit Report include:
- The injection of funding into primary care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through the COAG National Partnership Agreements is welcome and significant. But this level of funding must be sustained after the expiry of these agreements in 2013 if the gap is to be properly closed.
- Significant funding of primary care services will not be used to best effect if there is not the appropriate workforce to provide these services. Much more needs to be done to develop a high quality workforce for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
- Australian governments are now recognising the importance and potential of intersectoral collaboration, integration and continuity of care in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. Greater emphasis must be given to building the capacity of Aboriginal community-controlled health services so they can maximize their high potential for best practice primary care.
- The rate at which Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are incarcerated is thoroughly disproportionate and unacceptable. A great deal more needs to be done to stop the cycle of offending, incarceration and ill-health, particularly in relation to young people.
- Punitive approaches to health improvement, and measures that demean and stigmatise (such as the signs proscribing alcohol and pornography) do not contribute to healing, and inevitably fail. Australian governments should immediately abandon these approaches.
- Greater support should be provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to build their capacity to develop meaningful and effective solutions to local health problems.
- There has been a poor track record on the part of governments in engaging Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in genuine partnership in the planning and implementation of national solutions to their health problems. The AMA is encouraged to see that this is now beginning to change, particularly through the formation of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the advisory roles given to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council.
The Audit Report is at http://ama.com.au/aboriginal-reportcards/auditreport-2012
The AMA’s Report Cards on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health can be viewed at http://ama.com.au/aboriginal-reportcards
26 May 2012
CONTACT: John Flannery 02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
Kirsty Waterford 02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753
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