News

Health targets missed in Closing the Gap report


Matt Woodley


14/02/2019 2:31:38 PM

Australia is expected to fall short of targets related to child mortality rates and life expectancy, the 2019 report card has revealed.

A new arrangement should see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have more control and responsibility for targets and policies. (Image: Oxfam Aus)
A new arrangement should see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have more control and responsibility for targets and policies. (Image: Oxfam Aus)

According to the updated report, just two of the seven targets – halving the year 12 attainment rate and enrolling 95% of four-year-old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in early childhood education by 2025 – are set to be achieved.
 
Prime Minister Scott Morrison presented the updated report to Parliament, where he said the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians remained ‘unforgiveable’.
 
‘I want Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to have the same opportunities as all other children growing up in Australia. That is a goal I believe is shared by every single member of this parliament,’ he said.
 
‘But it’s not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children growing up in Australia today. It’s never been true and I don’t know when it will be true.
 
‘That is the truth we must confront today.’
 
Prime Minister Morrison also called for a new approach, saying the original targets had been ‘set up to fail’ and that the process for achieving them was too ‘top down’.
 
‘It didn’t genuinely bring on board states and territories in making sure they have accountabilities and sharing the objective and process with Indigenous Australians,’ he said.
 
‘While I’m not going to pretend today that this situation does not remain in an unforgivable state, I am going to say that we will all never rest as a nation until we change this for all time, all of us, together.’
 
The Prime Minister’s comments are in line with a new arrangement, negotiated last year, which should see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have more control and responsibility for targets and policies related to closing the health gap.

Scott-Morrison-hero-(Lukas-Coch).jpgPrime Minister Scott Morrison has labelled the ongoing healthcare gap ‘unforgiveable’. (Image: Luka Coch)
 
A coalition of peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations is hoping the deal will be formally ratified by the Council of Australian Governments by the end of February, which will include a tripartite agreement to update the targets, four of which have expired.
 
Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, told newsGP he welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to establishing a formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the Closing the Gap Strategy.
 
‘This year’s Closing the Gap report reminds us that whilst we are making important progress, we are still not doing enough for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,’ he said.
 
‘It’s critical we get this right. Our people deserve to live full and healthy lives, like every other Australian. We know the best way to achieve this is when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a say in the decisions that impact them.
 
‘Governments must acknowledge the critical role of primary healthcare and particularly the culturally responsive care offered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Closing the Gap.’
 
According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males born between 2015 and 2017 have a life expectancy 8.6 years lower than non-Indigenous Australian males, while the difference for females is 7.8 years.
 
These numbers represent an improvement of 2.5 years and 1.9 years, respectively, from 2010–12, but neither figure is statistically significant and similar improvements among non-Indigenous Australians means the target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 is not on track.
 
Additionally, the life-expectancy gap widens with increasing remoteness. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have much lower life expectancies in remote and very remote areas, whereas non-Indigenous Australians have similar life expectancies regardless of where they live. As a result, the life-expectancy gap in remote and very remote areas is 13.8 years for males and 14 years for females.
 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples also recorded a mortality rate 1.8 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians, despite a 14% drop between 1998 and 2017.
 
The five leading causes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality are circulatory diseases (23%), cancer and other neoplasms (22%), external causes (15%), respiratory diseases (9%) and endocrine disorders (mainly diabetes) (9%). The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chronic disease mortality rate has decreased by 19%, but as the non-Indigenous chronic disease mortality rate has declined at a faster rate, the gap in chronic disease mortality rates remains.
 
Other statistics of note: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer mortality rates have increased by 25% over the past 20 years, and the gap in cancer mortality rates is widening.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality rates from circulatory diseases have reduced by 47% between 1998 and 2017.
  • For the first time, the cancer mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was larger than for circulatory diseases – 240 per 100,000 compared with 229 per 100,000.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy was highest in Queensland (72 years for males, 76.4 years for females) and lowest in the Northern Territory (66.6 years for males, 69.9 years for females).
  • The gap in life expectancy was the largest for males in Western Australia (13.4 years) and for females in the Northern Territory (12.8 years).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the most disadvantaged areas are living around four years fewer than those in the least disadvantaged areas.



Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health Closing the Gap



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Dr.Vinod Lal   15/02/2019 7:32:11 AM

Its said to see CTG has not reached the target. I am not surprised at all based on the experience I had while working for an organisation as one of lead GP. That particular organisation had no respect for doctors. Initially there was great well experience doctors in ATSI health but after management change those doctors were bullied and some were asked to go as they did not agree managers telling them how to practice medicine. Organisation were only interested in high medicare billings and not in clinical outcome targets. Eventually all very senior and experienced doctors left who than replaced by doctors on special conditions from overseas. Within 12 months organisation had the highest turn overs of doctors and allied staff.
One wonders how will you achieve health outcome targets for ATSI where attitude of such organisation is not right to begin with.


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