Doctors are calling for the Federal Government to provide long-term funding to programs that prevent, detect and manage chronic disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
As detailed in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ pre-budget submission, these programs could help ensure better health outcomes and close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes and those of the non-Indigenous community.
“Doctors are seeing high rates of mortality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and this is largely attributable to chronic disease,” RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland said.
“The Federal Government must provide long-term funding certainty for the Medical Outreach Indigenous Chronic Disease Program, which is focused on preventing, detecting and managing chronic disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
The RACP strongly supports existing programs that improve access to specialist care, including the Rural Health Outreach Fund and Medical Outreach Indigenous Chronic Disease Program.
Dr Yelland praised the Government’s commitment to improving mental health and reducing suicide rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“Given the Federal Government’s recent focus on improving mental health and preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide, we believe that any solutions should be evidence-based and developed in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Dr Yelland said.
“The College is also calling on the Government to reinstate their funding for a research centre modelled on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, to bring together evidence-based research on overcoming disadvantage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”
There continues to be a huge disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes, with the life expectancy gap remaining close to 10 years for both men and women.
The gap for deaths from cancer between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has widened in recent years, with cancer death rates increasing by 21 percent between 1998 and 2015 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people while cancer rates declined for non-Indigenous Australians by 13 per cent in the same period.
Cancer mortality is one example where long-term funding and improved access to care, could help address chronic disease experienced in the community.