Indigenous health in Australia
Indigenous Australian health and wellbeing statistics indicate Aboriginal Australians are much less healthy than the rest of the Australian community. In 2010-11 the most common cause of hospital admissions for Indigenous Australians in mainland Australia was for kidney dialysis treatment.
The 26% of Indigenous Australians living in remote areas experience 40% of the health gap of Indigenous Australians overall.
A 2007 study found that the 11 largest preventable contributions to the indigenous burden of disease in Australia were tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, high body mass, inadequate physical activity, low intake of fruit and vegetables, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unsafe sex, child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence.
- 1 Hospitalisation rate
- 2 Life expectancy
- 3 Health spending on Indigenous health
- 4 Health status
- 5 Health dynamics
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Indigenous Australians go to hospital at a higher rate than non-Indigenous Australians. In 2010-11, Indigenous Australians used hospitals 2.5 times more frequently than non-Indigenous people. This rate comes from an age-standardised separation rate (hospital check-out) of 911 per 1,000 for Indigenous people.
The 2010-11 age-standardised separation rate for Indigenous people living in the NT was 1,704 per 1,000, 7.9 times the rate for non-Indigenous people. About 80% of the difference between these rates was due to higher separations for Indigenous people admitted for renal dialysis.
As of 2010, life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men was estimated to be 11.5 years less than that of non-Indigenous men - 67.2 years and 78.7 years respectively. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the 2010 figures show a difference of 9.7 years - 72.9 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and 82.6 years for non-Indigenous women.
Health spending on Indigenous health
IN 2010-2011, health expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was estimated at $4.6 billion, or 3.7% of Australia's total recurrent health expenditure. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population comprised 2.5% of the Australian population at this time.
Expenditure equated to $7,995 per Indigenous person, which was 1.47 times greater than the $5,437 spent per non-Indigenous Australian in the same year.
In 2010-2011, Governments funded 91.4% of health expenditure for Indigenous people, compared with 68.1% for non-Indigenous people.
In some areas of Australia, particular the Torres Strait Islands, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes among Indigenous Australians is between 25 to 30%. In Central Australia high incidences of type-2 diabetes has led to high chronic kidney disease rates amongst Aboriginals. The most common cause of hospital admissions for Indigenous Australians in mainland Australia was for dialysis treatment.
Indigenous Australians have much higher incidence rates than other Australians of cancers of the lung, liver, and cervix. Indigenous Australians have much lower rates of cancers of the breast, colon and rectum, prostate, melanoma of skin, and lymphoma.
In 2008, 45% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were current daily smokers.
In 2010, the rate of high or very high levels of psychological distress for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults was more than twice that of non-Indigenous Australians. A 2007 study found that the 4 largest preventable contributions to the indigenous mental health burden of disease were - alcohol consumption contributing the most, followed by illicit drugs, child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence.
Violence and accidents
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, particularly males, are far more likely than the rest of the community to experience injury and death from accidents and violence.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate varies across Australia. In New South Wales, the rate was 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006-2008, compared with the non-Indigenous infant mortality rate of 4.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. In the Northern Territory, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate was over three times as high as the non-Indigenous infant mortality rate (13.6 deaths per 1,000 live births compared with 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births).
Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality in the Northern Territory was about 15 deaths per 1,000 live births, while female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality was 12 deaths per 1,000. For non-Indigenous males the rate was 4.4 deaths per 1,000 births and for females it was 3.3 deaths per 1,000 (ABS 2009b).
Between 1998 and 2008 the Indigenous to non-Indigenous rate ratio (the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rate divided by the rate for other Australians) for infant mortality declined in the Northern Territory an average of 1.7% per year, while the rate difference (the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rate minus the rate for other Australians) almost halved from 18.1 to 9.8 deaths per 1,000 births, which suggests that the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous infant mortality in the Northern Territory has reduced (ABS 2009b).
Indigenous Australians have a higher rate of Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) than the wider Australian population. In Western Australia between 1997–2007, the IPD incidence rate was 47 cases per 100,000 population per year among Aboriginal people and 7 cases per 100,000 population per year in non- Aboriginal people.
After the introduction of a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (7vPCV), total IPD rates among Aboriginal children decreased by 46% for those less than 2 years of age and by 40% for those 2–4 years of age. Rates decreased by 64% and 51% in equivalent age groups for non-Aboriginal children.
Until the 1980s Aboriginal children were recognised as having better oral health than non-Aboriginal children. Today, average rates of tooth decay in Aboriginal children are twice as high as non-Aboriginal children. Between 1991 and 2001, the rate of tooth decay amongst Aboriginal children living in metropolitan areas fell, going against the increase in child tooth decay in remote areas.
A 2003 study found that complete loss of all natural teeth was higher for Aboriginal people of all age groups (16.2%) compared to non-Aboriginal people (10.2%). In remote communities, those with diabetes were found to have over three times the number of missing teeth than those without diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has been related to poor oral health.
Changes in the Australian Indigenous diet away from a traditional diet - high in fibre and sugar and low in saturated fats - to a diet high in sugar, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates has negatively affected the oral health of Indigenous Australians.
A 1999 study found that the water in rural and remote areas of Australia is less likely to be fluoridated than metropolitan areas, reducing access for many Aboriginal communities to fluoridated water. Fluoridated water has been shown to prevent dental decay.
A number of factors help to explain why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have poorer health than other Australians. In general, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to have lower levels of education, lower health education, higher unemployment, inadequate housing and access to infrastructure than other Australians.
In particular, crowded housing has been identified as contributing to the spread of infectious diseases. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are also more likely to smoke, have poor diets and have high levels of obesity.
A 2007 study found that the 11 largest preventable contributions to the indigenous burden of disease in Australia were tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, high body mass, inadequate physical activity, low intake of fruit and vegetables, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unsafe sex, child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence. The 11 risk factors considered together explain 37% of the total burden of disease experienced by Indigenous Australians. The remaining 63% consists of a range of known and unknown risk factors, yet to be identified or quantified.
Contemporary Indigenous diet
Poor-quality diet among the Indigenous population is a significant risk factor for three of the major causes of premature death in Indigenous Australians - cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Much of this burden of disease is due to extremely poor nutrition throughout life.
A 2013 study of Indigenous dietary patterns in Northern Territory communities found there was a high expenditure on beverages and corresponding high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages coupled with low expenditure (and low intakes) of fruit and vegetables. Similarly high per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been reported among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at the national level.
Studies have found that Indigenous Australian living in remote communities consume low levels of fruit, and high amounts of white bread.
- Opal (fuel), fuel developed to stop petrol sniffing
- "Hospitalisation". Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet. Department of Health and Ageing. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- Vos T, Barker B, Begg S, et al. Burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: the Indigenous health gap, The International Journal of Epidemiology 2009; 38: 470-477.
- Theo Vos, Bridget Barker, Lucy Stanley and Alan D. Lopez, 2007. The burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Summary report. Brisbane: School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, p. 9.
- [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Australian hospital statistics 2010-11. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.]
- "Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
- [Australian Institute for Health and Welfare 2013. Expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010-11. Health and welfare expenditure series no. 48. Cat. no. HWE 57. Canberra: AIHW.]
- Lauren Day (9 May 2012). "Doctor wins medal for diabetes treatment". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Gail Liston (1 March 2012). "Diabetes drug breakthrough hope for Indigenous". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Condon, J., Armstrong, B., Barnes, A. & Cunningham, J. 2003, ‘Cancer in Indigenous Australians: a review’, Cancer Causes and Control, vol. 14, no. 2, pp 109-121
- Theo Vos, Bridget Barker, Lucy Stanley and Alan D. Lopez, 2007. The burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Summary report. Brisbane: School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, p. 10.
- ["The Changing Epidemiology of Invasive Pneumococcal Disease in Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Western Australians from 1997 through 2007 and Emergence of Nonvaccine Serotypes", Lehmann D, Willis J, Moore HC, Giele C, Murphy D, Keil AD, Harrison C, Bayley K, Watson M, Richmond P. Clin Infect Dis. 2010 Jun 1;50(11):1477-86. doi: 10.1086/652440.]
- [Jamieson LM, Bailie RS, Beneforti M, Koster CR, Spencer AJ (2006) ‘Dental self-care and dietary characteristics of remote- living Indigenous children’, Rural and Remote Health, 6: 503.]
- [Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (2003), Oral Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Persons, DSRU Research Report No. 14, The University of Adelaide.]
- [Taylor GW, Burt BA, Becker MP et al. Severe periodontitis and risk of poor glycaemic control in subjects with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. J Periodontol 1996; 67:1085–1090.]
- [Martin-Iverson N, Phatouros A, Tennant M (1999) ‘A brief review of indigenous Australian health as it impacts on oral health’, Australian Dental Journal, Vol. 44, No. 2: 88-92.]
- [Australian Dental Association (2005) ‘The Public Health Benefits of Water Fluoridation’, National Dental Update, November.]
- Characteristics of the community-level diet of Aboriginal people in remote northern Australia, Julie K Brimblecombe, Megan M Ferguson, Selma C Liberato and Kerin O’Dea, Medical Journal of Australia 2013; 198 (7): 380-384.