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Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council
Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council

QAIHC calls for greater First Nations’ health investment as new data reveals Closing the Gap effort not delivering

| Posted in: News

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) is urging governments to share decision-making power with the Aboriginal community controlled health sector, after new health data revealed the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people has widened, and suicide rates are on the rise.

QAIHC Chairman Matthew Cooke said the new Closing the Gap Dashboard released by the Australian Productivity Commission revealed some Closing the Gap targets were not being reached.

The latest data shows only five out of 19 Closing the Gap targets for Indigenous Australians were on track for 2031.

“It’s a frustrating picture. Health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia aren’t improving and they should be,” Mr Cooke said.

“Mainstream systems (hospitals, prisons, child protection) are not providing the same level of improvement as for the rest of the Queensland and Australian population.

“In Queensland, suicide rates have increased from 20.7 per 100, 000 in 2009-2013 to 28.1 per 100, 000 in 2018-2022.

“This increasing trend highlights the need for greater focus on holistic, physical and mental health interventions within the community controlled primary health sector, and the determination by community of what will work.

“There has also been a slight increase in the life expectancy gap in Queensland in males by 0.4 years and in females by 0.8 years since 2015-2017.

“The life expectancy gap isn’t closing as fast as it should, and we need to see further investment in remote and regional areas where there’s great need for quality health care, but no access.

“The results are unacceptable and we need to start doing things differently for there to be any meaningful change.”

On a positive note, Mr Cooke said Queensland had reported the highest rate of Aboriginal and Islander specific 715 health checks – 337 per 1,000 compared to all other states and territories in Australia.

Mr Cooke called on the Queensland Government to work collaboratively with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector to create solutions that would positively impact health life outcomes for First Nations people.

“The Queensland Government must make genuine investments in community-controlled solutions to address the social and health challenges we continue to confront,” he said.

“The ACCHO sector is best placed to know what their communities need, supporting the social, emotional physical and cultural wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples.

“We must empower Indigenous communities to lead the way in shaping their own futures.”

He also said the Queensland Government must invest in health equity by committing substantial funding to the ACCHO sector, to implement community informed and based strategies that address the health and social disparities continually faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Life expectancy

  • The new data (2020-22) shows a larger gap in life expectancy for both males and females in Queensland and nationally since the previous time point in 2015-17. In Queensland, the life expectancy gap has increased from 2015-17 in males by 0.4 years and in females by 0.8 years.
  • The CTG Information Repository reports the life expectancy gap to have improved but not on track to be met by 2032. However, this improvement is from the baseline years 2005-2007, and not from the previous timepoint of life expectancy (2015-17). This shows that the life expectancy gap is widening between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous populations nationally, and with a larger gap for both males and females in Queensland.

 Health checks/health service delivery  

  • In 2022-2023, Queensland had the highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific health checks (715s) completed compared to all other jurisdictions (337 per 1000 people).
  • Similarly in 2021-22, Queensland and Northern Territory had the highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who received Medicare Benefit Schedule services for chronic disease under a General Practitioner Management Plan at 96.1 per 1000.

Suicide rates

  • Suicide rates have increased from 2009-13 (20.7 per 100 000) to 2018-2022 (28.1 per 100, 000) in Queensland and there has also been a larger increase nationally. The rate of suicide remains markedly higher in the Queensland Indigenous male population in 2018-22 (42.3 per 100, 000 vs female 14.4 per 100 000).
  • Additionally, the rates of suicide are particularly high between the ages of 18 to 44 years, and the largest increase from 2017-2022 to 2018-2022 was in the 35–44-year age group (increase of 3.3 per 100,000).

Healthy birthweights

  • From 2017 (the baseline year) to 2021, Queensland has had a significant increase of 1.5% in healthy birth weight range.

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