The Australian government is investing a further $90 million to help close the mounting gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Over three years, a new funding model and the additional funds will work to deliver primary health care that is appropriate to the unique culture, language, and circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
At the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization conference in Darwin Wednesday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the funding boost would be distributed “based on activity levels, the cost of delivering services, and the relative health needs of locations.”
"Finalising the model is a significant achievement that has been made possible as a result of our ongoing collaboration and shared commitment to ‘Closing the Gap’,” Hunt said. “There has been good progress across a range of health and social outcomes. For example, at the end of last year, 97% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 years were fully immunized.”
Great announcement from @GregHuntMP of an additional $90m over three years for the Indigenous Australians' Health Programme - investing in culturally appropriate health care is so important @NACCHOAustraliahttps://t.co/TcWIzIPzWz— National Rural Health Alliance (@NRHAlliance) November 6, 2019
The Australian Medical Association (AMA), which partnered with the government in developing the new funding model, has welcomed the news.
"We know that Indigenous people have a greater chance of improved health outcomes when they are treated by Indigenous doctors and health professionals,” AMA President Tony Bartone said in a press release. “They are more likely to make and keep appointments when they are confident that they will be treated by someone who understands their culture, their language, and their unique circumstances.”
There is at least a 10-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians — and it’s only widening.
Between 2001 and 2005, the life expectancy gap was 10.2 years for men and 9.6 for women. A decade later, those figures increased to 10.8 and 10.6, respectively.
Likewise, in 2016, Indigenous children under 4 years of age had twice the rates of infant mortality as their non-Indigenous counterparts. In 2015, Indigenous hospitalization was higher than non-Indigenous Australians for every chronic disease except cancer.
For kidney failure, Indigenous Australians are hospitalized as high as 11 times the rate as the non-Indigenous population.
According to Bartone, closing the health gap and addressing the underlying causes like social exclusion, unemployment, low incomes, poor education, and inadequate nutrition will take nation-wide, united efforts.
"Closing the disgraceful gap in life expectancy and health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians requires real action from all levels of government, the private and corporate sectors, and all segments of our community,” he said.