R Paul Johanson
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were estimated to have a life expectancy at birth of 72.9 years for females and 67.2 years for males in 2005–2007; 9.7 years less for females and 11.5 years less for males compared to non-Indigenous Australians.1 This ‘life expectancy gap’ is attributed to increased disability and chronic disease, as well as young child mortality. Parallel observations include an excess of potentially preventable hospitalisations1 and a younger population profile.2
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy
gap is associated with lower primary care usage by
Indigenous Australians. Many Indigenous Australians
regard private general practitioners as their usual source of
healthcare. However, a range of barriers results in relatively
low access to primary care, with subsequent inadequate
prevention and management of chronic disease. Indigenous
primary care requires development of a set of attributes by
the GP. Clinician autonomy may need to be tempered to be
responsive to the needs of local indigenous communities.
A partnership between an urban indigenous community
and a private general practice is described.
Over a period of 1 year, registered indigenous patients
at the private general practice clinic increased from 10
to 147; monthly attendance increased from five to 40
(p<0.001). Local engagement between private practices
and indigenous communities may be implemented widely
to reduce the primary care gap.
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