Tailor the health care to Close the Gap: hence Medicare Locals


Australia’s increasing Indigenous population is being urged to sign up for quality chronic disease management in general practice to ensure this cohort of Australian society gets the primary health care services they need.

During NAIDOC week, in which the nation celebrates and acknowledges the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, AML Alliance Chair, Dr Arn Sprogis says the good news is more individuals are identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander which is fundamental to how we as a nation work towards closing the gap on health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Census data for 2011 there has been a 20 percent increase in the Indigenous population since 2006 – that’s an increase from just over 455,000 to nearly 550,000 people,” Dr Sprogis said.

“While much of this increase is due to the Indigenous birth rate, a sizeable factor to this increase can also be attributed to people increasingly identifying as Indigenous,” he said.

“For the health sector, particularly in general practice, the more GPs and practice nurses and allied health professionals are aware of the Indigenous status of patients the greater the opportunity to ensure Indigenous Australians can be made aware of their health rights locally.

“One of the biggest tasks ahead for Medicare Locals is to ensure health service programs can respond to the particular needs and requirements as well as the clinical needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” Dr Sprogis said.

“To achieve this, the PIP IHI has been designed to get general practices to register for the incentive program and from there encourage their Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander patients to register to claim the benefits that can be offered through the program,” he said.

“While there is still room to improve these incentives, since this program started 2,600 general practices across the country have registered which is nearly 45 percent of practices nation-wide.

“Over 100,000 eligible patients are currently benefiting from funding directed towards various Indigenous Health programs and over 1.5 million prescriptions have been dispensed from pharmacies and four of the top five scripts have been for treating cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“Adding to the efforts to improve access to mainstream health services, Medicare Locals across the country are doing a mix of employing and funding a health workforce which currently consists of more than 260 Indigenous Outreach Workers, Indigenous Health Project Officers and Care Coordinators.

“Supported by their Medicare Locals, this workforce has deep outreach into the community so that the right services can be accessed at the right time.

“As Medicare Locals continue to grow, their integration of Indigenous health services will improve significantly and the right balance for health services for their respective Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population will be achieved, helping to make inroads into closing the gap in health inequities ” Dr Sprogis said

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