NACCHO Close the Gap news: AMA and Pharmacy Guild continue to make an important contributions to closing the gap


Community pharmacy continues to make an important contribution to the important national task of closing the gap in life expectancy and health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Press release from The Pharmacy Guild

The fact that the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, reported today that there has been “almost no progress in closing the life expectancy gap” should serve as a call to action to all in the health sector to work towards more effective solutions to this national problem.


Community pharmacists have actively implemented the Close the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme arrangements since 2010, helping to deliver quality use of medicines to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Increased access to the PBS helps improve the prevention and management of chronic disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The cost of medicines has been identified as a significant barrier to improved access to medicines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Despite two to three times higher levels of illness, PBS expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is about half that of the non-Indigenous average.

The Executive Director of the Guild, David Quilty, said: “The Guild has a longstanding and proven history of promoting equal access to pharmacy services that are culturally sensitive and appropriate.

“Additionally, the Guild is committed to the development and application of Quality Use of Medicines strategies to improve the health and health infrastructure for Indigenous people.

“That’s why we joined the ‘Close the Gap’ Campaign Steering Committee, which has called for policy continuity in critical areas of the national effort to close the gap, and also for further steps to build on and strengthen the existing platform,” Mr Quilty said.

For example, the Guild’s pre-Budget submission to the Government highlighted the fact that medication adherence is a particular problem in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and a modest, funded medication management program to meet their specific needs would improve health outcomes in a cost effective way.


The AMA today commended the Prime Minister on the personal drive and commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians outlined in his Closing the Gap Report, and welcomed the Government’s new target to end the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance.

The AMA also welcomes today’s release of the Close the Gap Campaign Progress and Priorities Report.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said both the PM’s Report and the Close the Gap Campaign Report highlight key areas where there has been success in closing the gap and reflect a shared intent to make a real difference to improving the quality of life and health of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

Dr Hambleton said the first priority is for all Australian governments to recommit to the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes for another four years, with current levels of funding.

“The AMA believes that achieving equality in health and life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a national priority,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The Close the Gap Campaign Report provides the Government and stakeholders with independent and informed feedback on how well we as a nation are performing in closing the gap on health inequality.

“The Report makes practical and informed recommendations about what more is needed to achieve health equality.

“These recommendations are made by key Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, including the AMA, who are directly aware of what is happening or not happening on the ground.

“Importantly, the Report identifies the areas where real needs and real gaps remain to be filled.

“There is evidence of some early successes in closing the gap, particularly reduced smoking rates and maternal and childhood health.

“The AMA welcomes these successes and believes the COAG

National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes, with leadership and funding from all governments, can achieve many more successes with the right funding and commitment.

“All government and stakeholders must work together in partnership to achieve these goals.

“As the Prime Minister said today: ‘ Our job is to break the tyranny of low expectations.’”

In order to make a real difference in closing the gap, the AMA believes an implementation framework must be established for the recently-developed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

This would involve:

  •  the development of a comprehensive set of measurable targets to be achieved over the next 10 years;
  •  the development and implementation of a service model that will effectively and efficiently achieve those targets;
  •  the development and implementation of a national workforce strategy for existing and emerging areas of need in service provision;
  •  the formulation of a funding and resource model commensurate with health care needs and priorities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations over the next 10 years; and
  •  clear, measurable requirements for governments to work together in genuine partnership and with the guidance of Indigenous health leaders and Indigenous communities.

Dr Hambleton said the development of this framework should be undertaken by a newly constituted Stakeholder Advisory Group, which would use the experience and expertise of Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups that have first-hand knowledge of what works, what doesn’t work, and what holds promise and is worth pursuing.

“The AMA strongly believes that getting a healthy early start in life is crucial to leading a healthy later life, which will eventually close the gap across generations,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are particularly susceptible to risk factors and stressors that can determine poor outcomes later in life and entrench the intergenerational cycle of ill-health.

“Governments need to focus greater funding on evidence-based best-practice programs in early childhood development that are delivering positive outcomes.

“The AMA outlined some of these programs in its recent Report Card on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.”

The 2013-14 AMA Report Card on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health,

The Healthy Early Years – Getting the Right Start in Life, is available at here


Congress notes the Prime Minister’s focus on school attendance in his first Closing the Gap report and looks forward to the detail of the new Closing the Gap target.
“Congress believes education is a two way relationship – we want to see as much energy and focus on making schools places that our kids want to go and our families trust and genuinely feel a part of,” said Congress Co-Chair Kirstie Parker.
“Local schools and communities need to be supported through good policy at both a state and a national level to help make this happen; attendance will not rise through punitive measures alone.
“The Abbott Government must continue the work done on developing previously announced disability and justice targets in Closing the Gap.
“The over-representation of our peoples in the criminal justice system – at around 12 times the rate of the rest of the Australian population – is both cause and effect for the poor state of health, education and employment of so many of our families and communities.
“Access to disability services is an important determination of outcomes not just in health, but in education, employment justice and housing,” Ms Parker said.
Co-Chair Les Malezer said, “We urge the Government to show leadership in closing the gap by forging a new National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Health Outcomes with all states and territories on board.
“We also urge it to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health organisations and others on implementing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (NATSIHP) and its vision of the Australian health system being free of racism and its recognition of culture as central to the health of our Peoples and communities.
“Racism within the health sector affects access to health services -our members tell us and this was also confirmed in national NATSIHP consultations.
“Now is the time for the Abbott Government to walk the talk to continue the strong bipartisan support to close the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and life expectancy gap by 2030,” Mr Malezer said

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