Indigenous health refers to the physical, cultural, social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people (Indigenous Australians).
Many Indigenous Australians experience poorer health than other Australians, often dying at much younger ages.
One study of Indigenous health showed that non-communicable diseases and injuries explained 70% and 15% respectively of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The analysis also showed that injury and diabetes were much larger contributors to Indigenous health outcomes, while cancer contributed a smaller proportion, when compared with the entire Australian population.
There is also a continued high occurrence of certain diseases - and resulting conditions - that are now virtually unknown in the non-Indigenous population. Notable among these are trachoma (a bacterial infection of the eye), otitis media (middle ear infection) and rheumatic heart disease.
Alcohol, tobacco and illicit substances are widely used by Australians, although substance use plays a significant role in the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians when it comes to life expectancy and health.
Closing the Gap
Closing the Gap is a commitment by all Australian governments to work towards a better future for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. It aims to close the gap of Indigenous disadvantage in areas such as health, housing, education and employment. For more information, visit www.dpmc.gov.au.
The following programs and initiatives are designed to give better access for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people to healthcare services that are essential to improving health and life expectancy, and to reducing child mortality.
The Primary Health Care program provides ongoing funding to support Indigenous health organisations (IHOs) to provide primary healthcare services, undertake testing and treatment for communicable diseases, undertake capital projects that support delivery for IHOs and improve the quality of, and access to, services.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Chronic Disease Fund supports activities to improve the prevention, detection and management of chronic disease. It consolidates 16 existing programs into a single, flexible fund. Further information, including guidelines, can be found at www.health.gov.au.
The Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program is a nurse-led home visiting program being implemented in selected sites across Australia. For more information, go to www.anfpp.com.au.
Other programs and initiatives can be viewed at www.health.gov.au.
Sources: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (The health and welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - an overview), Department of Health and Ageing (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Programs), Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (Closing the Gap - The Indigenous Reform Agenda)
Last reviewed: September 2015