The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is backing calls for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led decision-making and self-determination to boost health outcomes across the nation.
The Close the Gap campaign is an independent, Indigenous-led campaign that calls on political leaders to take action on health and life expectancy equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The campaign is separate to the Australian Government’s Closing the Gap strategy.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2023: Strong Culture Strong Youth: Our Legacy, Our Future raises awareness of Australia’s ongoing need for healthcare equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the importance of participatory decision making and culture in developing effective approaches to health.
The RACGP is a proud founding member of the Close the Gap Alliance Group and continues to work with the Group in advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health equity and equality.
Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health faculty, said GPs and practice teams have a key role to play in improving health equity in Australia.
“There is real benefit to approaching health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from a strengths-based approach,” she said.
“Communities identifying what their health priorities are and how to address and manage these priorities can only improve health outcomes. That can be achieved through programs that support young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health and reinforce the value of culture.
“The RACGP provides resources, guidelines and encourage GPs to undertake cultural safety training so they can identify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their practice, address their own biases and engage meaningfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”
Dr Nicholls said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be involved in the design of any approaches to their health to create effective programs and avoid replicating issues that have acted as barriers to health equity.
“Key actions for closing the gap include collaborative, co-designed programs and understanding the importance and value of self-determination,” she said.
“Healthcare that is both clinically and culturally safe should be seen as a human rights approach. Achieving equitable health outcomes cannot be accomplished without addressing the impact of racism both for our patients and our clinicians.
“There is a generation of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who have known nothing but discussion around closing the gap. For future generations, we need to make improvements in a more holistic and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-informed and inclusive way.”
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said both the College and individual GPs have an important role in closing the gap.
“The RACGP is committed to equality for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community,” she said.
“The College works to practice participatory and community-driven work, and our partnership with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, or NACCHO, is an example of this.
“It’s critical that policies and programs are developed and delivered in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to ensure their specific needs are identified and addressed.”