New plan to improve the health of indigenous Australians

Aboriginal flag painted on bricks

Minister for Rural Health Fiona Nash has launched an Implementation Plan to help Close the Gap by improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Implementation Plan is a 10-year road map: a strategy to better health for Indigenous children, Indigenous youth and Indigenous adults, according to a statement by the Minister.

The Implementation Plan is an adoption and development of  the 10 year National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (2013-2023), delivered when Labor was in power. According to the Minister, the Implementation Plan details actions and achievable goals, “putting meat on the bones”.

“The release of this Implementation Plan is an important milestone in Indigenous health and is the result of deep cooperation between the Government and indigenous stakeholders,” Minister Nash said.

“The Implementation Plan includes 20 specific goals which will be used to measure outcomes in Indigenous health.

“It lays out goals in the areas of antenatal health, health checks, immunisation, smoking rates and diabetes. The Plan also lays down the changes needed to make the health system more comprehensive, culturally safe and effective for Indigenous Australians.

“The Indigenous health sector has made it clear this Plan was important to them and we have delivered it.”

The Implementation Plan commits the sector and the Government to increasing the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-4 who have at least one health check a year from 23 to 69% by 2023.

It also aims to increase the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth who have never smoked from 77 to 91% by 2023; and the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are fully immunised by age 1 from 85% to 88% by 2023.

National Health Leadership Forum Chairman and Lowitja Institute Chief Executive Officer Romlie Mokak welcomed the Plan.

“The Government, through Minister Nash, has worked in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop an effective plan for achieving better health outcomes for our people,” Mr Mokak said.

“From here, we must all ensure implementation of the plan, including addressing the wider social and cultural determinants of health and wellbeing.”

Minister Nash said work has already begun to progress the Implementation Plan.

“The Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme is investing $3.3 billion over four years to support the continued delivery of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly through Aboriginal community controlled health services,” Minister Nash said.

“We are investing $94 million to expand efforts to improve child and maternal health through Better Start to Life; and $36.2 million will expand the Healthy for Life programme into a further 32 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations to better manage chronic disease.

“We also encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have health checks and free vaccinations.”

Minister Nash thanked those who had been involved in preparing the Implementation Plan, including the National Health Leadership Forum which has partnered with the Australian Government and provided expertise in developing the Plan.

Minister Nash acknowledged the work done in the Indigenous health space by former Indigenous Health Minister, Mr Warren Snowdon, Senator Rachel Siewert, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals.

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