Media release

Primary health care key to closing the gap

The AMA welcomes today’s Close the Gap Campaign Report and the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap Report as important reminders of how much more needs to be done to genuinely close the life expectancy and health quality gaps experienced by Indigenous Australians.

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler said that, despite best efforts across the political spectrum over many years, targets for life expectancy, reduced mortality rates, and other key performance indicators are not being met or are not on track.

A/Prof Owler said that health, especially access to primary health care, is key to addressing Indigenous disadvantage.

“It is vital that the Close the Gap strategy addresses all the social determinants, but without good health and access to quality health services, it is so much harder for Indigenous Australians to get to school, stay in school, get an education, get training, and get a job,” A/Prof Owler said.

“Today’s reports emphasise the need for a concerted effort to fund and resource primary health care service providers to detect, treat, and manage chronic health conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“There are significant numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with undetected treatable and preventable chronic conditions, which impact on life expectancy.

“Community controlled health organisations and Aboriginal Medical Services need greater support to be able provide Indigenous Australians with access to the comprehensive primary care services that other Australians enjoy.

“These bodies also need greater support in ensuring Indigenous Australians have a healthy start to life, with early intervention programs to ensure better health outcomes for children and teenagers.

“Achieving equality in health and life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a national priority, but today’s reports show that there is still a way to go before we see meaningful and lasting improvements.”

A/Prof Owler said that the Government’s proposed Medicare changes – the unfair co-payment model, the cut to the Medicare rebate, and the freeze on Medicare patient rebates until 2018 – will hit community controlled health services and Aboriginal Medical Services hard, and place enormous pressure on efforts to close the gap.

“These changes will also have a devastating impact on mainstream general practice, which plays a vital role in providing quality primary health care to Indigenous patients,” A/Prof Owler said.

“Good policy to close the gap must start today.”

 The AMA is seeking talks with the Prime Minister to discuss health policy and health reform, including measures to close the gap and end Indigenous disadvantage.

11 February 2015

CONTACT:        John Flannery                     02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

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