COAG Report Card Shows More Effort Required to Close the Gap

By Petrina Smith
Thursday, 26 June, 2014

The COAG Reform Council’s final report card shows that governments need to strengthen efforts to improve health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Chairman of the COAG Reform Council, the Hon John Brumby said that the findings released today in Healthcare in Australia 2012-13: Comparing outcomes by Indigenous status show a need for governments to commit to long-term reform of Indigenous health.
“Indigenous Australians should enjoy the same health, education and employment outcomes as non-Indigenous Australians, but persistent gaps remain,” Mr Brumby said.
“For five years the COAG Reform Council has reported on whether governments are achieving targets to improve Indigenous health. Our final reports, and today’s supplement, show that despite improvements in some areas, Indigenous Australians continue to suffer poorer health than non-Indigenous Australians.”
A significant improvement was made in closing the gap in the number of child deaths—the Indigenous rate decreased by 35% over five years.
“This is a resounding achievement and a testament to the importance of governments working together to deliver real, lasting changes in our communities,” Mr Brumby said.
However the findings show that work is still needed to lift outcomes in other areas. The life expectancy gap is over 10 years for men and over nine years for women, and it is unlikely that COAG’s target to close this gap by 2031 will be achieved.
Indigenous Australians are three times more likely to die of an avoidable cause, meaning three quarters of deaths of Indigenous people under 75 could have been avoided through early prevention or treatment.
Cost was a barrier for one in eight Indigenous people seeing a GP, for one in five visiting a dentist and for one third filling a prescription.
“When you avoid going to a primary or community care provider because of cost or other reasons, you often end up in hospital. And we’ve found that rates of preventable hospitalisations for Indigenous Australians are three to four times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians,” Mr Brumby said.
Addressing rising obesity rates also poses a challenge for our healthcare system. The Indigenous obesity rate was 42%, compared to 27% for non-Indigenous Australians.
Also, Indigenous Australians’ lung cancer rate was nearly twice the non-Indigenous rate, and the Indigenous adult smoking rate was more than double the non-Indigenous rate.
“Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is a priority for all Australian governments but it is a long-term challenge, which requires enduring commitment and resources.” Mr Brumby said.
Mr Brumby will release the council’s last findings today at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Healthy Futures summit in Melbourne.
The COAG Reform Council has reported independently to COAG on government performance in delivering healthcare, Indigenous, disability, education, employment, mining, city planning, and economic reforms. The council will close next week on 30 June, 2014.

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