Indigenous health outcomes improving - June 2015
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has published the latest progress report on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – the fifth in a series published every two years.
The report, for 2014, was prepared by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council.
On the positive side, it says that in the case of chronic disease, which constitutes two-thirds of the health “gap”, there was a significant decline in the mortality rate for Indigenous Australians (16 per cent) and a significant narrowing of the gap with non-Indigenous Australians (15 per cent) between 1998 and 2013.
Circulatory disease mortality rates for Indigenous Australians declined by 40 per cent between 1998 and 2012 and the gap narrowed.
Circulatory disease was the most common cause of death for Indigenous Australians (25 per cent) during 2008–12.
“Kidney disease death rates, while only 3 per cent of Indigenous deaths, also declined by 40 per cent between 2006 and 2012 and the gap narrowed.
Among risk factors: “Indigenous smoking rates declined significantly by 7 percentage points to 44 per cent between 2002 and 2012–13 for those aged 15 years and over.”
In terms of child and maternal health, there was a 31 per cent decline in the mortality rate for Indigenous children aged 0–4 years and a significant narrowing of the gap between 1998 and 2013.
“The low birthweight rate declined by 9 per cent between 2000 and 2011 for babies born to Indigenous mothers, and the gap narrowed. Smoking during pregnancy declined for Indigenous mothers between 2005 and 2011 from 54 per cent to 50 per cent.”
The report says that Medicare services claimed by Indigenous Australians have doubled over the last decade, including increases in health assessments, chronic disease management items and overall GP care.
“The Indigenous rate of Medicare GP services claimed is now higher than the non-Indigenous rate.”
Matters listed as “concerns” include: “In 2012–13, 47 per cent of Indigenous Australians aged 18 years and over had a disability or restrictive long-term health condition.
“The life expectancy of Indigenous Australians has improved slightly in recent years but progress will need to accelerate if the target is to be met by 2031.
“Cancer death rates for Indigenous Australians increased by 11 per cent between 2006 and 2012, while rates for non-Indigenous Australians declined by 5 per cent.. “There has been no improvement in the mortality rate due to diabetes or injury (including suicide and transport accidents).”