The Indigenous population in Queensland faces a significant disparity in life expectancy, with a gap of up to 7.8 years compared to the average, as highlighted by a recent state audit. The audit revealed that the health system is unlikely to meet its target of closing this gap by 2031. Queensland Health, according to the audit, has been unable to demonstrate the improvement of culturally appropriate care in its 23-year framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities since its launch 13 years ago.
Currently, the life expectancy gap for Indigenous males in the state stands at 7.8 years, while for females it is 6.7 years. Although there has been progress in improving life expectancy, the audit identified heart disease, cancer, and diabetes as major contributors to early deaths, accounting for approximately half of the cases. The report also revealed that while each hospital and health service region had at least one Indigenous representative on its governing board, there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving workforce representation targets.
The report emphasized the need for consistent utilization of important positions such as Indigenous liaison officers and called for more opportunities to train and develop the non-Indigenous healthcare workforce to provide better care for Indigenous patients. Additionally, the audit revealed that Indigenous people residing in remote areas were 1.6 times more likely to experience potentially preventable hospitalizations.
Furthermore, the report highlighted that 90% of Indigenous babies were born with a healthy birth weight, indicating a good start in life, compared to 95% of babies in the general Queensland population. The audit put forth six recommendations to bridge the health gap, including the development of a strategy to reduce missed specialist appointments and premature discharge from hospitals against medical advice, as well as improving transportation to healthcare services.
Responding to the audit, a spokesperson from Queensland Health affirmed the organization's commitment to addressing health inequities and achieving life expectancy parity for Indigenous people by 2031. They acknowledged the need for further action and stated that all recommendations would be accepted and implemented in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organizations and communities.
Opposition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships spokesman, John-Paul Langbroek, expressed his dismay at the report, criticizing the government for its failure to implement Indigenous health plans over the past decade. He emphasized that the government had disregarded previous warnings and allowed these systemic failures to persist without effective intervention.
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Photo Courtesy National Indigenous Times
Courtesy National Indigenous Times