Leadership and partnerships needed to Close the Gap

12 Feb 2014

The AMA today commended the Prime Minister on the personal drive and commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians outlined in his Closing the Gap Report, and welcomed the Government’s new target to end the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance.

The AMA also welcomes today’s release of the Close the Gap Campaign Progress and Priorities Report.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said both the PM’s Report and the Close the Gap Campaign Report highlight key areas where there has been success in closing the gap and reflect a shared intent to make a real difference to improving the quality of life and health of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

Dr Hambleton said the first priority is for all Australian governments to recommit to the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes for another four years, with current levels of funding.

“The AMA believes that achieving equality in health and life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a national priority,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The Close the Gap Campaign Report provides the Government and stakeholders with independent and informed feedback on how well we as a nation are performing in closing the gap on health inequality.

“The Report makes practical and informed recommendations about what more is needed to achieve health equality.

“These recommendations are made by key Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, including the AMA, who are directly aware of what is happening or not happening on the ground.

“Importantly, the Report identifies the areas where real needs and real gaps remain to be filled.

“There is evidence of some early successes in closing the gap, particularly reduced smoking rates and maternal and childhood health.

“The AMA welcomes these successes and believes the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes, with leadership and funding from all governments, can achieve many more successes with the right funding and commitment.

“All government and stakeholders must work together in partnership to achieve these goals.

“As the Prime Minister said today: ‘Our job is to break the tyranny of low expectations.’”

In order to make a real difference in closing the gap, the AMA believes an implementation framework must be established for the recently-developed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

This would involve:

• the development of a comprehensive set of measurable targets to be achieved over the next 10 years;
• the development and implementation of a service model that will effectively and efficiently achieve those targets;
• the development and implementation of a national workforce strategy for existing and emerging areas of need in service provision;
• the formulation of a funding and resource model commensurate with health care needs and priorities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations over the next 10 years; and
• clear, measurable requirements for governments to work together in genuine partnership and with the guidance of Indigenous health leaders and Indigenous communities.

Dr Hambleton said the development of this framework should be undertaken by a newly constituted Stakeholder Advisory Group, which would use the experience and expertise of Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups that have first-hand knowledge of what works, what doesn’t work, and what holds promise and is worth pursuing.

“The AMA strongly believes that getting a healthy early start in life is crucial to leading a healthy later life, which will eventually close the gap across generations,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are subject to a higher prevalence of risk factors and stressors that can determine poor outcomes later in life and entrench the intergenerational cycle of ill-health.

“Governments need to focus greater funding on evidence-based best-practice programs in early childhood development that are delivering positive outcomes.

“The AMA outlined some of these programs in its recent Report Card on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.”

The 2013-14 AMA Report Card on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, The Healthy Early Years - Getting the Right Start in Life, is available at https://ama.com.au/2012-13-ama-indigenous-health-report-card-healthy-early-years-getting-right-start-life

12 February 2014

CONTACT: John Flannery  02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
 Kirsty Waterford  02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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