No short term solutions to closing the gap on Indigenous health

10 March, 2009

The AMA welcomes the commitment the Rudd Government has shown over the past 12 months to closing the Indigenous health gap.

AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said she agreed with the Prime Minister on the need to be realistic and acknowledge the size of the task ahead.

“These health inequalities are the product of generations of neglect. There are no quick fix solutions,” Dr Capolingua said.

“But the joint $1.6 billion COAG commitment to closing the Indigenous health gap represents a major step in the right direction.

“The AMA believes that a long term generational commitment to closing the gap needs a long-term national plan. This should be the next major step in closing the gap.

“A national plan to close the gap needs to ensure that:
  • a strategic and coordinated approach is taken over the coming decades between all governments and agencies involved, and appropriate benchmarks and progress targets are built into policies and programs.
“Most importantly governments must build genuine partnerships with Indigenous communities. Governments have recognised that Indigenous people must be active participants in building the sense of personal and community responsibility needed to produce genuine and effective solutions on the ground.

“These solutions demand a broad approach, not only in terms of direct health outcomes, including addressing nutrition and abuse of alcohol and smoking, but also those other factors that we know impact on health. These include education, housing and the full range of social supports.  

“The 17 year gap in life expectancy remains a point of national shame – the Rudd Government has committed to closing the gap within a generation. Achieving this will demand the resolute and ongoing support and cooperation of all governments, all communities, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and all Australians.

“The doctors of Australia will continue to support any and all measures that help Indigenous people live longer, happier, healthier and more productive lives.”