This Health Plan provides a long-term, evidence-based policy framework as part of the overarching Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) approach to Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage, which has been set out in the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) signed in 2008. The NIRA has established a framework of national targets and policy building blocks. Two of the Closing the Gap targets, to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 and close the life expectancy gap by 2031, go directly to health outcomes, while others address social determinants of health such as education and employment.
The Health Plan builds on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It adopts a strengths-based approach to ensure policies and programs improve health, social and emotional wellbeing, and resilience and promote positive health behaviours. It emphasises the centrality of culture in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rights of individuals to a safe, healthy and empowered life. The Health Plan also builds on existing strategies and planning approaches to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, outlined further in the report.
Australia has a world class health system that is not accessed equally by all Australians according to need. The data shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access health services at 1.1 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians even though their need for health services is estimated to be 2-3 times higher due to their poorer health status. Evidence also indicates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are receiving fewer procedures and prescriptions than nonIndigenous Australians with the same health conditions.
The Health Plan is central to the Australian Government’s targeted approach to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can enjoy the same standard of health as other Australians. The 10-year life of this Health Plan comes at a critical time in ongoing efforts to close the gap, during which our collective efforts must be targeted to ensure the best outcomes can be realised.
To help achieve this, the Australian Government undertakes to:
• continue working across governments and sectors to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage;
• invest in making health systems accessible, culturally safe and appropriate, effective and responsive for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and
• support good health and wellbeing across the life course, and continue to target risk factors at key life stages.
Effective health systems contribute to improved health outcomes.
They need to be:
• tailored to individual health needs;
• clinically effective;
• accessible and culturally competent;
• integrated into a system of care where needs are complex; and
• well governed, cost effective, evidence-based and accountable.