Closing the Gap Must be at Heart of Government Agenda
The National Heart Foundation has welcomed improvements in a number of key health indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but stresses that a long-term commitment and strong leadership must be at the heart of national agenda if Australia is to meet Close the Gap targets.
These claims come following today’s release of the Close the Gap Steering Committee’s Progress and Priorities Report 2016 on the 10th anniversary of the Close the Gap campaign.
The report reveals:
- Ischaemic heart disease is the greatest contributor to the avoidable and preventable mortality gap (22% of the gap). This can be addressed through such initiatives as the Heart Foundation and Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s (AHHA) Lighthouse project.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples mortality rates are declining, especially deaths from circulatory diseases such as heart disease and stroke (down 41%)
- Circulatory disease continues to be the most common cause of death among the population (25%)
- There has be a 7% reduction in smoking rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over the age of 15 years, however the rate remains alarmingly high at 44%.
National Heart Foundation CEO, Professor Garry Jennings AO said while the report reveals positive gains in reducing the overall gap in health, the target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 remains a major challenge.
“For every positive step made towards closing the gap, there is still considerable work to be undertaken if we are to achieve genuine progress,” said Prof. Jennings.
“The decline in smoking rates among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in particular is one such success, however with rates still at alarming levels, we can see why there remains a need for continued, high level investment and leadership from Government.”
The report also highlighted continued disparity in care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples presenting to hospital with signs of a heart attack.
“The report shows that half of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not receiving the equivalent care for a heart attack when compared with non-Indigenous Australians,” said Vicki Wade, National Heart Foundation Leader, National Aboriginal Health Unit.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the same right as non-Indigenous Australians to access the best possible healthcare without barriers, when and where they need it.
“The National Heart Foundation and AHHA’s Lighthouse project aims to change traditional work practices that are seen as barriers to quality care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through cultural education in Australian hospitals.
“Having a greater understanding of relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture and the political, social and historical factors that affect the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples puts healthcare providers in a better position to deliver the best quality care,” said Ms Wade.
The National Heart Foundation is calling on the Government to fully fund the new Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (2013–2013), as a means of fast-tracking action on Closing the Gap initiatives and targets.
The Heart Foundation is a member of the Close the Gap Steering Committee and is committed to supporting all Close the Gap efforts to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.