Home | News | Disparities still exist in the health of indigenous Australians.

Disparities still exist in the health of indigenous Australians.

Indigenous life expectancy gap largely attributable to chronic diseases, finds new report.

While some inroads have been made in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there are still many areas where large disparities exist, according to the latest statistical report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, The health and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an overview 2011, for the first time, looks at the impact of chronic diseases on the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians (currently estimated to be 12 years for men and 10 years for women).

It shows that about 80 per cent of the mortality gap can be attributed to chronic diseases, most significantly heart diseases (22 per cent), followed by diabetes (12 per cent) and liver diseases (11 per cent).

“Many chronic diseases have inter-related risk factors which are often associated with social and economic disadvantage in areas such as housing, education and employment,” said Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW spokesperson.

“Much of this chronic disease is potentially preventable. In some of these areas there have been improvements, for example, the proportion of indigenous people who were daily smokers dropped from 49 per cent to 45 per cent between 2002 and 2008.

‘In education, indigenous Australians aged 25-34 years completed more schooling than those aged 55 years and over and Year 12 retention rates for Indigenous students rose from 29 per cent in 1996 to 47 per cent in 2010.

However, there are still many areas where indigenous outcomes remain significantly worse.

For example, Al-Yaman said babies born to indigenous mothers were twice as likely to be of low birth weight as babies born to other Australian mothers. And nearly half of all Indigenous children were living in jobless families in 2006—three times the proportion of all children in Australia.

“Indigenous Australians comprised more than a quarter of all prisoners in 2010. And, indigenous Australians made up 1 in 5 users of homelessness services in 2008-09,” he said.

The indigenous observatory can be accessed at: www.aihw.gov.au/indigenousobservatory/

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