The Close the Gap coalition has presented the Federal Government and Opposition with a set of National Indigenous Health Equality Targets to address the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“The targets are specific, time-bound commitments that will keep us on track to close the gap,” says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma.
“For a long time, we’ve known how to improve Aboriginal health. We’re now confident that there is a national commitment from all sides of politics to work in partnership with Aboriginal people to close the gap within our lifetimes.”
Dr Mick Adams, National Chair of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation also emphasised the need to adopt the targets as part of a comprehensive national Indigenous health plan.
“It’s important that we resist the temptation to ‘cherry pick’ the specific targets,” he says. “We will only succeed through a well-resourced national plan that tackles the whole range of issues – from chronic disease to child mortality; mental health as well as social and emotional well being.
“Indigenous people need access to comprehensive primary health care if we are going to be able to halve the rates of premature birth and low birth weight of Indigenous babies over the next decade. And we still have a long way to go before we can say that all Indigenous Australians who suffer chronic diseases like diabetes or chronic kidney disease receive regular check ups.”
Aboriginal medical services need the level of resources, staffing and 21st Century facilities to match the burden of disease in their communities. For example, in the next five years alone an additional 1500 Aboriginal health workers will be needed to meet demand.
“A concerted effort is required, not just a little more of the same,” Dr Adams says.