Progress is needed in Indigenous health

The COAG Reform Council’s latest report on Indigenous reform shows much work still needs to be done in Indigenous health.

Council chairman, the Honourable John Brumby, said that progress in the health of Indigenous Australians remains largely unchanged, despite some improvements in education.

Mr Brumby said faster progress would need to be made to meet COAG’s (Council of Australian Governments) target to close the life expectancy gap by 2031.

One statistic of particular concern to The Fred Hollows Foundation is that 41 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are obese, compared with 27 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians. 

Diabetes related vision loss already impacts 13 per cent of Indigenous Australians living with the disease. Without regular screening for conditions like diabetic retinopathy, this statistic is expected to rise sharply. Last year only 20 per cent of Indigenous Australians with diabetes undertook an eye exam.

Australia also remains the only developed country with endemic trachoma. Despite the rates of the bacterial eye disease decreasing rapidly, it remains a problem in many remote Indigenous communities where poor hygiene and overcrowding results in reinfection. 

The Australian Government is working with an alliance of organisations, including The Fred Hollows Foundation, to eliminate trachoma by the year 2020. 

The report shows gains have been made in education, with Indigenous students' reading scores lifting across all year levels. There is also an increase in students completing Year 12 and achieving post-school qualifications. 

COAG is on target to halve the gap in child deaths by 2018. "This is a resounding achievement," Mr Brumby said. 

“While we are pleased to find successes in this report, we are wary that there is still hard work to be done in some areas. This is the time to regroup and see these reforms through,” Mr Brumby said.

Find out what The Foundation is doing to improve Indigenous health and wellbeing.
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