‘Bottom up’ pathway to Aboriginal health and wellbeing


Ah CHee

There is an urgent need to do more to break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage, says Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation’s CEO Donna Ah Chee

On the second day of the PHAA 44th Annual and 20th Chronic Diseases Network Conference in Alice Springs, the primary focus is on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and strategies to address the cycle of ill health, chronic conditions and low life expectancy.

“A major priority in the prevention of premature death and chronic disease among Aboriginal people in Australia is the prevention of harm caused by alcohol through adopting effective strategies proven to reduce the levels of dangerous consumption at a population level,” said Ah Chee, a Bundgalung woman from the far north coast of NSW who has lived in Alice Springs for more than 25 years.

The latest Australia’s health 2016 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released last week shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are 3.5 times more likely to have diabetes and twice as likely to have coronary heart disease.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples living in remote and low socioeconomic areas have an even greater chance of developing a chronic disease and dying from it,” said PHAA CEO Michael Moore.

“Generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are being affected by these determinants and the cycle needs to stop.

“Prevention initiatives to deter tobacco and alcohol use and improve nutrition and physical activity need to be implemented to reduce the preventable diseases like type II diabetes in these communities. The cycle needs to be broken for the adults currently managing their symptoms and for their children who have not yet been affected,” says Moore.

Ah Chee says the conference is an opportunity to bring attention to proposed strategies key to addressing prevalent health issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“So much of the adverse impacts of poverty and other social determinants of health are mediated to children through the care and stimulation they receive in their early years,” she said.

“Many parents struggle to overcome their own health issues and the impact of their own poverty and they need additional support for their children.

“Congress has developed an integrated model for child and family services that provides a holistic service and program response to this issue within a comprehensive primary health care service. In addition to making Australia a more equal and fairer society through redistributive policies, including taxation reforms, there is an urgent need to provide key evidence-based early childhood programs for disadvantaged children.

“This is the ‘bottom up’ pathway to greater individual and collective control, equality and social inclusion,” said Ah Chee.

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