Help Close the Gap early on Indigenous health

In Central Queensland, News, Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay by Jasmin Midgley

In the wake of last week’s National Reconciliation Week, now is an ideal time to reflect on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians, and the sobering reality that the mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is currently 2.4 times the mortality rate for non-Indigenous children.

The health targets set by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in the in the 2019 Closing the Gap (CTG) report were not met, and nor are on track to be met.

The target of closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy within a generation is currently not on track to be met by 2033, and neither is the goal to halve the gap in mortality rate for Indigenous children under the age of five within a decade (by 2018).

To address the short fall in these Closing the Gap targets, it is essential to take a preventative approach and provide health services and programs that aim to develop positive and sustainable patterns of health behaviours in early childhood that will influence physical and mental outcomes into adulthood (Making Tracks).

A pilot program aimed at developing these positive health behaviours in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children was piloted in Gympie and the Sunshine Coast in January 2019 to screen children between the ages of four and five across five stations: optometry, dental health, hearing, speech therapy and occupational therapy.

Below is data collected by the North Coast Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health from the screenings:

19 children in Gympie were screened for school readiness: 4 passed, 15 failed
14 children on the Sunshine Coast were screened for school readiness: 14 failed

Of those screened:

3 children in Gympie and 4 children on the Sunshine Coast were given optometry referrals, the same number in each area were given ENT referrals.

1 child in Gympie was given a dental referral, along with 9 from the Sunshine Coast.

11 children in Gympie will be reviewed at 3-6 months for audiometry, along with 7 on the Sunshine Coast.

14 children from Gympie were referred to the Children’s Therapy Centre, along with 12 from the Sunshine Coast.

The data highlights the importance of early intervention and the need to continue hosting events like this as only 13% of NCACCH clients in this age group were screened.

It is also important the 715 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessment is completed across the full age spectrum in order to encourage early detection, diagnosis and intervention for common and treatable conditions that cause morbidity and early mortality.

By using a wraparound approach, together we will be able to help Close the Gap to achieve equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy.

The NCACCH work with general practitioners on the Sunshine Coast and in Gympie to help Close the Gap and can help connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with:

  • Health Access Card – like a private health insurance without the ‘upfront’ and ‘gap’ payments and delivers equitable and efficient access to existing health care services for card holders
  • Child Health – Mums and Bubs, Indigenous Health Child Worker
  • Chronic Disease Management Program – GP referrals to the program
  • Tackling Indigenous Smoking

Indigenous Health Project Officer Samantha Croon can provide you with information regarding:

  • Practice Incentive Program – Indigenous Health Incentive (PIP-IHI)
  • Closing the Gap and Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) for reduce cost of medicines
    • 715 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health check assessment
    • Relevant Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items
    • Cultural Awareness Training
    • Becoming a NCACCH Approved Medical Centre

For more information, contact ihpo@ncacch.org.au or 5346 9800.