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QAIHC urges more health investment to tackle Closing the Gap shortfalls

Joseph Guenzler -

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council has called for increased Aboriginal community controlled health sector involvement in decision-making.

Recent health data shows a widening life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, coupled with a rise in suicide rates.

Bailai man and Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) Chairman Matthew Cooke highlighted findings from the Australian Productivity Commission's Closing the Gap Dashboard, indicating a shortfall in meeting certain targets.

The most recent data discloses that only five out of the 19 Closing the Gap targets for Indigenous Australians are progressing as intended 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."

The trend highlights the need for comprehensive health interventions in the community-controlled primary health sector.

QAIHC noted community-driven strategies are needed to address the increasing life expectancy gap, with a slight widening observed in Queensland: 0.4 years in males and 0.8 years in females 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," Mr Cooke said.

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

Highlighting a positive aspect, Mr Cooke noted Queensland's achievement of the highest rate of Aboriginal and Islander specific health checks (known as 715s).

The state reported 337 per 1,000, surpassing all other states and territories in Australia.

Mr Cooke urged the Queensland government to collaborate with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector.

"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 further emphasised that the Queensland government should allocate significant funding to the ACCHO sector, prioritising health equity.

Regarding suicide rates, there has been an increase in Queensland from 20.7 per 100,000 (2009-13) to 28.1 per 100,000 (2018-2022), with a higher rate observed in Indigenous males (42.3 per 100,000 vs. females at 14.4 per 100,000).

The rates are notably elevated among individuals aged 18 to 44 years, with the largest increase observed in the 35–44-year age group (3.3 per 100,000) from 2017-2022 to 2018-2022.

In terms of healthy birthweights, Queensland witnessed a significant increase of 1.5% in the healthy birth weight range from 2017 (baseline year) to 2021.

More information is on the PC Gov website. 

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