17 March 2016

The gap in health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and other Australians remains stubbornly large in a number of areas, but outcomes are improving in many others as National Close the Gap Day hits its tenth year.

Infant mortality rates have more than halved in the last 16 years, immunisation is up, the gap in smoking rates are down and more people are having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific health checks.

“We’re also seeing some good results in education such as more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people finishing year 12 and going on to higher education, which is an important indicator of future health,”  North Western Melbourne CEO Adjunct Associate Professor Christopher Carter said.

However progress is patchy, with objectives around closing the gap in employment and life expectancy not on track to be achieved by the targeted date of 2030.

“Life expectancy is still nearly ten years lower for Aboriginal men and women than their non-Aboriginal counterparts and prevalence and mortality rates for many chronic conditions are far higher in the Aboriginal community,” A/Prof Carter said.

NWMPHN is working hard to be part of the solution, releasing an information paper on Closing the Gap in North Western Melbourne in January and launching ongoing consultations with Aboriginal Health organisations around local priorities and actions.

The organisation is also holding a National Close the Gap Day event and making a donation to the organisers Oxfam, as well as supporting local health services to run their own National Close the Gap Day activities.

“The aim of National Close the Gap Day is to bring people together, share information and take action – and that’s the exact approach we are taking in all of our Aboriginal Health activities in northern and western Melbourne,” A/Prof Carter said.

“There may be a long way to go in some areas but the progress we have already made shows that it is possible to close the gap in health, and we are committed to making that happen.”

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