NACCHO #IndigenousVotes : AMA Indigenous #Healthelection16 platform launched

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“Achieving health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a priority for the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

It is simply not acceptable that in 2016, Australia’s Indigenous people continue to experience poorer health and a significantly lower life expectancy than their non-Indigenous peers.

Health is intricately woven within the social determinants of health.

The wider community’s limited understanding of Indigenous culture, and the history of the relationship between Australia’s first peoples and non-Indigenous Australians are issues that have yet to be adequately addressed.

For the AMA, Indigenous health has been and will remain a priority. It is a responsibility to advocate for better health outcomes for Australia’s Indigenous people.”

Dr Michael Gannon AMA President

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Over recent decades, we have seen some progress in improving Indigenous health and life expectancy, but there is still much more to be done. While there has been some success in reducing childhood mortality and smoking rates, the high levels of chronic disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continues to be of grave concern.

Chronic disease (primarily cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease and kidney disease) accounts for two-thirds of the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. With chronic disease being such a major impact on the health and life expectancy of Indigenous Australians, the AMA sees government investment in resourcing for culturally appropriate primary health care as paramount.

It is not credible that Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, cannot address health and social justice issues affecting its first people who make up just three per cent of its population. It is not good enough to keep hearing the excuses and well-meaning, but unsupported, words of successive governments.

The next Federal Government must commit to and deliver, effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and develop and implement tangible strategies to address social inequalities and determinants of health.  Without this, the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians will remain wide and intractable.

The AMA, along with many others working in Indigenous health, has been campaigning for long-term funding and commitments from the Commonwealth to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

My predecessor, Professor Brian Owler, travelled to remote Aboriginal communities, as well as attending the Gama Festival in East Arnhem Land, to better understand the health issues and problems many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience. Following his trip to Central Australia earlier this year, the AMA engaged with a number of key stakeholders on addressing diabetes and supporting the health services working in remote communities. This is something that the AMA will continue to do.

I have family roots in rural Western Australia and attended both primary school and high school with Aboriginal students. Sadly as an Obstetrician, I have broad personal experience of the increased burden of perinatal morbidity and mortality suffered by Aboriginal women in both my clinical work and my service on the Perinatal and Infant Mortality Committee (Health Department of WA).

Health is intricately woven within the social determinants of health.

The wider community’s limited understanding of Indigenous culture, and the history of the relationship between Australia’s first peoples and non-Indigenous Australians are issues that have yet to be adequately addressed.

For the AMA, Indigenous health has been and will remain a priority. It is a responsibility to advocate for better health outcomes for Australia’s Indigenous people.

Indigenous health issues were a prominent theme at the 2016 AMA National Conference and will continue to be a focus for many years to come.

The AMA benefits from the expert advice on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health that comes through its Taskforce on Indigenous Health, from visiting Indigenous communities, and by partnering with groups such as the Close the Gap Campaign, NACCHO, and many others.

As a member of the Close the Gap Steering Committee, the AMA is supporting their election priorities and issues. One of these issues is to call on the next Federal Government to establish a closing the gap target to reduce the rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people coming into contact with the justice system. This issue was a key recommendation of the AMA 2015 Report Card on Indigenous Health which highlighted the strong connection between health and incarceration.

Recently, the AMA also became a signatory to the Close the Gap Campaign’s Redfern Statement which called on the next Federal Government to meaningfully address the disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This reaffirms the AMA’s strong commitment to Indigenous health issues. The AMA set out its position on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in its Key Health Issues for the 2016 Federal Election document delivered at the start of the 2016 election campaign. If we are to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, the next Government must strengthen their investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and make a genuine commitment to the following measures:

  • correcting the under-funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services;
  • establishing new or strengthening existing programs to address preventable health conditions that are known to have a significant impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people such as cardiovascular disease (including rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease), diabetes, kidney disease, and blindness;
  • increasing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health organisations.  Such investment must support services to build their capacity and be sustainable over the long term;
  • developing systemic linkages between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health organisations and mainstream health services to ensure high quality and culturally safe continuity of care;
  • identifying areas of poor health and inadequate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and direct funding according to need;
  • instituting funded, national training programs to support more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people become health professionals to address the shortfall of Indigenous people in the health workforce;
  • implementing measures to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to primary health care and medical specialist services;
  • adopting a justice reinvestment approach to health by funding services to divert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison, given the strong link between poor health and incarceration;
  • increase funding for family violence and frontline legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • appropriately resource the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan to ensure that actions are met within specified timeframes; and
  • support for a Central Australia Academic Health Science Centre.  This part of Australia faces unique and complex health issues that require specific research, training and clinical practice to properly manage and treat and this type of collaborative medical and academic research, along with project delivery and working in remote communities, is desperately needed.

Closing the gap in health and life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is an achievable task. It is also an agreed on national priority.

With more than 200,000 Australians supporting action to close the gap, it is evident that the Australian public demand that government, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their representatives, meet this challenge.

The next government must ramp up its ambition to achieve health equality and take further steps in building on the existing platform.

In particular, the challenges of operationalising the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, the work of the Primary Health Networks and strengthening the Closing the Gap Strategy.

These remain key tests of our nation’s future and our shared intergenerational will and commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their health and wellbeing.

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Redfern Statement

 

 

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