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Closing the gap for Aboriginal health

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posted by Research Admin 1 on 28 February 2019



Editorial: The Lancet, Vol 393(10173) P718, February 23, 2019

On Feb 14, the last Closing the Gap report on Aboriginal people in Australia was released. In a feeling of déjà vu, the 11th annual report again showed little progress. In 2018, just two of seven targets designed to narrow inequalities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on health, education, and employment were on track. Ten years after the initiative was launched, life expectancy at birth is 71·6 years for Indigenous men and 75·6 years for Indigenous women, a massive gap of 8·6 years and 7·8 years, respectively, compared with non-Indigenous Australians. The report overall is utterly disappointing.

The response this week by the ruling government includes commitments that should have been made a decade ago: partnerships with Aboriginal groups; a whole of government approach; more accountability and transparency; providing space for Aboriginal voices. Only now has the Government committed to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop a strategy.

But broader social changes are also needed—ones that the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for. Their latest Ingigenous Health Report Card, released Nov 22, 2018, said a complete overhaul of the national strategy was needed to ensure equitable expenditure; better funding and implementation of health plans; increases in primary health care; environmental, housing, and other social dimensions of health inequality are addressed; and Aboriginal health is placed in Aboriginal hands. The AMA also called out institutional racism as being a main impediment to Aboriginal health. “More Indigenous health studies are also needed, as argued in a Comment by Geraint Rogers and colleagues. Without all these elements, poor progress on inequalities in Australia will continue.

On the heels of failure, disappointment must give way to determined resolve. Successive Australian Governments' repeated lip service to Aboriginal health is a clear hypocrisy in light of the failings of their Closing the Gap initiative. Australian people must hold the Government to account for meaningful and dedicated engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to health for all.

To access the Closing the Closing the Gap reports, go to: