The federal government has secured the support of Labor, the Greens and community health experts for a plan aimed at closing the gap in Indigenous health by 2031 reports The Guardian
Labor, the Greens, health experts back plans for increased health checks, boost to immunisation and encouraging pregnant women to attend antenatal classes
The Australian Government’s Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 looks to the people who have runs on the board, those in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector, to play a key role, and offers further opportunities for our Services to grow and deliver more primary health care to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We congratulate Minister Fiona Nash on seeing this through – a process started by the former government but broadly informed by the Aboriginal health sector”
Matthew Cooke, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
The implementation plan, unveiled at Parliament House on Thursday, includes 20 health targets, in addition to the existing Close the Gap targets.
Key areas include increasing the rate at which Indigenous people, particularly small children, have regular health checks; encouraging pregnant women to have antenatal classes and quit smoking; and boosting immunisation rates for children and vulnerable older people.
The National party senator, Fiona Nash, whose rural health portfolio takes in Indigenous health, spent two years consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander groups before devising the goals, which she labelled “reasonable and achievable”.
“These new 20 goals give us more to work towards, saying this is what we want to achieve, this is how we’re going to achieve it and this is how we’re going to have better outcomes,” she told reporters on Thursday.
Nash admitted there was more work to be done, but said the implementation report would achieve better outcomes because it put the recognition of Indigenous culture at the forefront of how health services were delivered.
“It’s very important that culture is central to health services. One of the things that is very clear is that Indigenous people need culturally appropriate service delivery,” she said. “They need to feel safe, they need to feel that it’s appropriate, and that’s the best way we can get better outcomes.”
Greens senator Rachel Siewert praised the plan for taking into account the underlying effects of poor health.
“We need to be working on the social determinants of health, because the two are so interlinked,” she said.
The plan was adopted by both Labor and the Greens without change, and Nash’s efforts were praised by colleagues from across the political divide.
There will be yearly updates on progress, and Nash noted that further initiatives relating to Indigenous mental health would be included in the government’s response to a wide-ranging report from the Mental Health Commission.
The health minister, Sussan Ley, has indicated the government’s response will be made public by the end of the year.