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AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (WA)
Although health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens is improving, the health gap remains unacceptably large, the Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Richard Choong said today.
Dr Choong was commenting after the release of the annual AMA Indigenous Health Report Card 2012-13, The Healthy Early Years – Getting the Right Start in Life, by Assistant Minister for Health, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, at Parliament House in Canberra.
“We have been producing these Report Cards for over a decade now, and each time we focus on a different aspect of Indigenous health – children’s health, primary care, funding, men’s health, or inequity of access.
“This year we are focusing on the early years of life, and the current gulf in positive outcomes between indigenous children and the wider population.
“As a community, we measure ourselves by how well we treat each other, irrespective of race or religion. However more needs to be done to even out the health playing field, and give every Australian child the best start to life possible.
“While there has been an improvement in recent years, it is of vital importance that the momentum gained in Closing the Gap is sustained.
“Australian children should have access to equal opportunities for growth and development as well as access to good health and education services.
“Sadly a large number of our children are missing out, but none more so than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“This adversity affects educational and social functioning in later life, and can increase the risk of chronic illness.
“If there is no intervention, these problems will be transmitted from one generation to the next,” Dr Choong said.
The AMA makes several recommendations in the Report Card to improve the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in their early years, including:
• a national plan for expanded comprehensive maternal and child services that covers a range of activities including antenatal services, childhood health monitoring and screening, access to specialists, parenting education and life skills, and services that target risk factors such as smoking, substance use, nutrition, and mental health and well-being;
• the extension of the Australian Nurse Family Partnership Program of home visiting to more centres;
• support for families at risk with interventions to protect infants and young children from neglect, abuse and family violence;
• efforts to reduce the incarceration of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders;
• efforts to improve the access of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders to the benefits of the economy, especially employment and entrepreneurship;
• efforts to keep children at school;
• building a strong sense of cultural identity and self-worth;
• improving the living environment with better housing, clean water, sanitation facilities, and conditions that contribute to safe and healthy living; and better data, research and evaluation culturally appropriate measures of early childhood development and wellbeing.
The AMA Indigenous Health Report Card, The Healthy Early Years – Getting the Right Start in Life, is available to view here.
By renewing the COAG National Partnership Agreements on Indigenous Health and on Indigenous Early Childhood Development for at least another five years, we can make a difference and stop the cycle of childhood adversity in indigenous communities,” Dr Choong said.