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Close the gap

Take action now and support Indigenous health equality

The RACGP is deeply concerned by findings outlined in the Closing the Gap –The Prime Minister’s Report 2015 which reveal limited progress towards bridging the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

In response, the RACGP has drafted a template letter for GPs to personalise and send to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and/or your local MP, calling for greater commitment to achieve Close the Gap campaign targets by 2030.

To send your message to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, address your letter to:

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

To find your local MP and their contact details:

Visit the Parliament of Australia website, enter your postcode in the ‘search members’ bar and click on the photo of your liberal MP. This will provide you with their postal address.


TOOLKIT
for GPs

TOOLKIT
to assist your patients

Message from the Chair of RACGP National Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

Associate Professor Brad MurphyThe RACGP is proud to be a member of the Close the Gap Steering Committee and is committed to supporting the campaign’s goal to achieve health equality for all Australians within a generation.

Since its launch in 2008, there has been positive progress in some of the Close the Gap objectives including a reduction in child mortality, however there is still considerable progress to be made.

Achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality by 2030 is an ambitious, yet achievable task and the recently released 2015 progress and priorities report reflects a shared commitment to the improvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ lives.

With continued support from the general practice profession, we can ensure the Australian government continues to work with Indigenous communities and invests in partnerships that will see all Australians experience access to quality healthcare.

Change is possible: It’s happening now. Let’s keep pushing for health equality.

Signature of Associate Professor Brad Murphy
Associate Professor Brad Murphy

What is Close the Gap?

Close the Gap is an Indigenous-led campaign which aims to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.

In March 2008, the then Australian Government and Opposition in signing the Close the Gap Statement of Intent committed to closing the health equality gap by 2030.

What is the aim of Close the Gap?

The RACGP is a member of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee along with Australia’s peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health bodies.

The Campaign’s goal is to raise the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved within short time frames.1

Close the Gap is a multi-decade commitment that will span policy cycles, funding agreements and governments. Consequently the Campaign Steering Committee places a great significance on securing multi-party support for achieving health equality.

Has Close the Gap seen any progress?

A recent release of the Close the Gap Progress and Priorities report 2015 provides insight into the key determinants of health in meeting the Close the Gap objectives. While there has been positive progress in some Close the Gap objectives including child mortality, there is still considerable work to be done towards improving other outcomes such as life expectancy.

The RACGP believes general practice and primary healthcare is in the optimum position to improve life expectancy, identified within the report as a key objective in need of urgent progression.

Many of our members undertake daily work to improve health outcomes for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients however there are still a lot to be done to achieve life expectancy equality.

The RACGP’s position

As a member of the Campaign Steering Committee, the College is committed to the Close the Gap campaign’s Statement of Intent.
The College’s Federal Budget 2014- 2015 submission2 recommended the following:

Recommendation 1:

National Partnership Agreements between federal and all state and territory governments under the COAG Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage should be agreed and funded with a matter of urgency. This is the framework by which governments agree priorities and funding together, and is essential for progress to be made.

Recommendation 2:

The National Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health should be funded and implemented. Developed by peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, it sets out a comprehensive plan for improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the best available evidence. Given that current Medicare expenditure is less per person for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in both Medicare benefits and pharmaceutical benefits, despite the greater need, this investment is sorely needed.

Recommendation 3:

Maintain and expand measures in the Indigenous Chronic Disease Program that improve the financial accessibility of effective healthcare measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Specifically, the PBS Closing the Gap co-payment should be maintained and improved, as recommended by the Menzies Sentinel Sites Evaluation.3

Recommendation 4:

Measures to remove financial barriers to accessing care from private specialists and allied health providers be implemented. Peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health organisations, including but not limited to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, be funded and supported to continue their important leadership role.

Recommendation 5:

Other budgetary measures, including those which would not normally be considered health spending, should also be examined to see if they are likely to have an adverse impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Examples might include proposals for a co-payment for GP services, changes in alcohol and tobacco taxation or policies affecting legal aid provision.

What can you do to help Close the Gap?

The benefit general practice holds in the provision of preventive healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is well known; however social determinants of health including education and employment have significant impacts on health outcomes. Our profession holds a large role in tackling these Close the Gap outcomes. Not only will an investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health work towards curbing health disparities, but it is also an investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment. Currently social care sector employs 15% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce4, the highest rate of any sector.

Toolkits for GPs

There are a number of initiatives GPs and general practice teams can implement to close the gap. The National Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health have designed ToolKits to help GPs and their patients to improve access to health services and useful resources.

Register or support a local Close the Gap event

National Close the Gap day registered events take place all across the country, not just capital cities - find your nearest event or register to host your own event.

Call for action pledge form

Join the RACGP in demanding Indigenous health equality by signing the Close the Gap pledge now.

By signing the pledge, you are calling for the Australian Government to:

  • Develop a comprehensive National Action Plan with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their representative bodies;
  • Increase Indigenous community participation and control in the delivery of health services; and
  • Address the critical social issues of housing, education and self-determination

Anyone can help to Close the Gap

References

  1. www.humanrights.gov.au/close-gap-indigenous-health-campaign
  2. www.racgp.org.au/yourracgp/news/reports/20140203prebudget/
  3. Bailie et al., Sentinel Sites Evaluation: Summary Report. Report prepared by Menzies School of Health Research for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra. (2013) Menzies School of Health Research [cited 31 November 2013].
  4. www.factsfightback.org.au/is-the-mining-industry-the-largest-indigenous-employer-check-the-facts/

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