Senate committee told to reject GP co-pay and invest in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

142905_0140A peak Aboriginal health body has told a Senate committee that the proposed GP co-payment and changes to the PBS would discourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients seeking preventative health care and impact on efforts to close the gap in Aboriginal life expectancy.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) submission to the Senate Select Committee on Health also calls for a recommitment to health promotion and early intervention programs and for a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific health initiatives.

The NACCHO submission said health policy should recognise Aboriginal people’s increasing preference to use Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services over mainstream services and ensure funding keeps up with demand and inflation.

“As a nation we must look for ways to improve the health of Aboriginal people and invest in programs and services that are working for Aboriginal people,” Mr Mohamed said.

“We must encourage Aboriginal people to get regular check ups, to see their GP and to participate in initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles.

“The introduction of extra expenses such as GP co-payment and a rise in the cost of PBS medicines will discourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to seek preventative health care and impact on their long-term health.

“The additional expenses will also seriously affect the long term sustainability of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, most of who will not pass on the charges to patients.

“For the sake of the health of Aboriginal men, women and children, these proposals must be rejected.”

Mr Mohamed urged the Senate committee to focus on preventative health measures which deliver long-term benefits through improved health and wellbeing and reduce the burden on the healthcare system at the tertiary and acute end of care.

“The NACCHO submission also calls for ongoing culturally-appropriate health programs that are specifically designed and run-by Aboriginal people as we know these have the greatest success,” Mr Mohamed said.

“In particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific population health initiatives and child and maternal health programs must be maintained to ensure we continue to close the gap on life expectancy and infant mortality.”

Read the full submission here:



Aboriginal Health Summit: ongoing investment needed to close the gap


Successes in improving the health of Aboriginal people, to be showcased over the next three days at an Aboriginal health summit in Melbourne, will highlight the importance of ongoing investment in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and programs.

Justin Mohamed, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) said the 2014 NACCHO Health Summit will feature innovative and creative approaches to Aboriginal health, driven by Aboriginal people, which are achieving results.

“The Federal Budget has taken a huge chunk of funding out of Aboriginal health programs,” Mr Mohamed said.
“Given the incredible work being done by our sector to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through prevention, early detection and health promotion, it simply doesn’t make economic sense to cut front line Aboriginal health programs.
“We still have a long way to go close the huge gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and other Australians but we are on the right track to reaching our targets by 2031.
“It’s critical we maintain the momentum and continue to give Aboriginal people control over their own health – funding programs run by Aboriginal people – since that is where we will have the biggest effect.”
Mr Mohamed said some of the examples which will be shared at the 2014 NACCHO Health Summit include:
• The Victorian Aboriginal Health Services Healthy Lifestyles and Tackling Tobacco Team has implemented a range of different health promotion strategies to engage members of the community from children to elders in physical activity, quit and healthy lifestyles programs. Successful initiatives over the last 12 months include: fun runs, yoga, hypnotherapy, social marketing, a comedy show and more recently the VAHS Tram taking the Australian public along for the ride.
• Wuchopperen Health Service ‘Community Controlled Health Services have to prove their value contribution in an increasingly competitive landscape. Wuchopperen has survived three decades of funding uncertainty. Wuchopperen has enacted a multi-faceted strategy to ensure long term sustainability and self-determination – with self-sufficiency a possible endpoint within a decade. Leveraging MBS income streams Wuchopperen has facilitated an increase in staff numbers from 135 to 180 over three years, maintaining a proportion of 80 per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff. All funds generated have been reinvested into further services to the community, including expanded allied health services and optometric care facilitating on-site eye-testing and dispensing of spectacles.’
• ABS presentation (funded by ABS/ Dept of Health/ National Heart Foundation) ‘The 2012-2013 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (AATSIHS) is the largest and most comprehensive survey of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community ever undertaken. This survey provides a platform for a range of new research into health determinants and patters, supporting assessment of of progress in closing the gap in health outcomes.’
• Walgett AMS Accreditation Experience, Fifteen Years and Still Going Strong ‘In 1987 the CEO and Board of WAMS became concerned about changes to AMS funding conditions. In order to prepare for the possibility WAMS investigated agencies which accredited health services. In 2013 WAMS gained it’s fifth round of accreditation and in 2014 will work to bring it’s Dental Clinic into the process. Accreditation assists in improving client services and also enables the service to stand as equals with other Health Services and Medicare Locals’.
• John Patterson AMSANT CQI ‘The life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and other Australians in the NT is the widest in the nation, but it is also closing at the fastest rate. NT is the only jurisdiction on track to close the life expectancy gap by 2031. AMSANT believe that the implementation of the CQI programs has been pivotal to improving the Aboriginal PHC contribution to closing the gap.’
Mr Mohamed said “The summit will be the Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health and the best demonstration of Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands.”
Media contacts: Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774 / Jane Garcia 0434 489 533

NACCHO media release: Aboriginal health gap in danger of blowing out

Justin - NACCHO Chair

Pictured: Justin Mohamed

The national Aboriginal primary health peak, the National Community Controlled Health Organisation
(NACCHO) today warned that the significant inroads being made to close the health gap for Aboriginal
people was in danger of being eroded without urgent commitment from all states and territories.

NACCHO Chair, Justin Mohamed said the National Partnership Agreement to Close the Gap signed by
all states and territories in 2008 had now expired and inaction threatened to derail the gains made in
the health of Aboriginal people across the country.

“Commendably, both the Commonwealth and Victorian governments have shown leadership and resigned to the Agreement before it expired at the end of June,” Mr Mohamed said.

“The WA government has also rolled funding over for another 12 months as they undergo a review of
Aboriginal health expenditure.

“Critical health programs are now at risk if other states and territories continue to avoid putting in their
share to close the appalling life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people which
can be up to seventeen years difference.

“It is simply unacceptable that this issue isn’t being given priority by all states and territories given how
far we have come already and how far we have yet to go.

“We need to see generational change for our people to break the cycle of poor health and it is
extremely disappointing that some state and territory leaders seem to think the issue will go away if
they ignore it long enough.”

Mr Mohamed, speaking at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Summit in
Victoria today, said the evidence was there that close the gap initiatives were working and that
Aboriginal health provided by Aboriginal people in their own communities was having a real impact.

“The summit today has provided a great opportunity to showcase the incredible contribution Aboriginal
Community Controlled Health Organisations are making in their communities.

“We have concrete evidence that Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands is what is really making the
difference in achieving health outcomes for our people.

“We are seeing big improvements in child birth weights, maternal health and management of chronic
diseases like diabetes.

“There is still a long way to go so we must maintain the momentum and continue to fund and support
the community controlled health model which has for 40 years now proved its worth.”

Media contact: Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774