This report provides the latest information on how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are faring according to a range of indicators on health status, determinants of health and health system performance that are based on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework. It highlights the main areas of improvement and continuing concern. For example, while death rates for avoidable causes and circulatory diseases have declined since 1997, more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers smoke during pregnancy and about one-quarter of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over live in overcrowded housing.
The report finds areas of improvement in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including:
- a 33% decline in overall mortality for Indigenous Australians from 1991 to 2010 and a 24% decline in avoidable mortality from 1997 to 2010
- a 41% decline in deaths due to circulatory disease, the leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians from 1997 to 2010
- a significant decrease (39%) in deaths due to respiratory disease from 1997 to 2010
- a 62% decline in infant mortality rates from 1991 to 2010, and a significant narrowing of the gap between Indigenous and other Australians
- a significant increase in health assessments recorded through Medicare since the introduction of the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes in July 2009, and corresponding increases in allied health care services
- claimed by Indigenous Australians through Medicare since 1 July 2009.
- immunisation coverage rates for Indigenous children are close to those for other Australian children by age 2
- an increase in episodes of care provided by Indigenous primary health care services between 1999-00 and 2010-11 (from 1.2 million to 2.5 million)
Areas of concern include:
- high rates of smoking during pregnancy (52%)
- lower rates of access to antenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy (56% for Indigenous mothers compared to 75% for non-Indigenous mothers).
- half of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over had a disability or long-term health condition in 2008 and about 8% had a profound or severe core activity limitation
- mortality rates for chronic diseases are much higher for Indigenous Australians (almost 7 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians for diabetes and twice the rate for circulatory diseases)
- a large increase (96%) in incidence rates of treated end-stage renal disease since 1991 (currently 7 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians)
- high rates of hospitalisations and deaths due to injury (particularly assault, suicide and transport accidents)
- About one-quarter (25%) of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over live in overcrowded housing
- barriers to accessing appropriate health care, such as cultural competency, continue to remain a problem
- lower access to procedures in hospitals.