Indigenous Health Day of Action May 1, 2014


May 1, 2014 is an Indigenous Health Day of Action and Listening in Australia.

The gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous health outcomes remains significant. There have been some gains in the past 10 years, however, a great deal of work still needs to be done so that the disparity between Indigenous and non-indigenous people can be further reduced. As a nation, and with bipartisan, long term support, we need to continue to build on improving the determinants for health for Indigenous people in Australia.

One way we can do this is by encouraging and supporting Indigenous people to attain higher education qualifications. We will need more Indigenous people who have tertiary level health qualifications across all disciplines (eg nurses, social workers, psychologists, paramedics, medical officers… etc), to ensure a stronger voice for improved policy and practice, and better health outcomes for Indigenous people. In Australia there are currently approximately 400 Indigenous people with a PhD in any discipline. How many are health PhD’s? I don’t know. But I do know that stronger arguments, stronger advocacy and more research-based evidence is needed to improve the positioning of Indigenous health in the national health budget and to ensure that sufficient light is shed on both problems and their solutions. We need to find ways to ensure that young Indigenous people are supported to achieve educational attainment at all levels.

If you know an Indigenous health student – encourage them and motivate them to excel and achieve in their university training. Cheer them on…

Mooted in the media at the moment there are pre-budget whispers of funding cuts to medicare, to mental health and to Indigenous health…. …If funding cuts occur then this is bad news, and if cuts rather than enhancements are on the government funding agenda, then we can anticipate a slowing in closing the gap.

Here are some of the reasons why it is important to enhance Indigenous health funding and why treasury should think carefully before making any cuts…

  • Indigenous death rates in Australia are twice the rate of non-indigenous Australians. There is a persistent significant gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous morbidity and mortality within Australia [1].
  • Suicide was the fifth leading cause of death for Indigenous people in Australia in 2012; a rate which is twice that of non-Indigenous suicide deaths [1].
  • Help-seeking for a mental health problem is lower in Indigenous communities with only 14% of Indigenous people with a diagnosed mental illness seeking treatment prior to suicide [2].
  • The leading cause of death for young people in Australia is suicide; responsible for over a quarter of deaths of males 20-34 years age, one third of deaths for females 15-19 years of age, and a quarter of deaths of females aged 20-24 years [1]. For Aboriginal youth and young people this rate is twice the rate of non-Indigenous people between the year 2001-2010 [3].

Some further reading and links:

1.    Australian Bureau of Statistics., Causes of Death, Australia, 2012. 2014, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

2.    Isaacs, A.N., et al., Barriers and facilitators to the utilization of adult mental health services by Australia’s Indigenous people: Seeking a way forward. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing., 2010. 19: p. 75-82.

3.    Commonwealth of Australia., National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023. 2013, Australian Government: Canberra. p. 1-66


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