Gains made on closing the health gap but much work still to be done

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The Heart Foundation welcomes improved in health indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but more work is needed.

The Heart Foundation has welcomed improvements in a number of key health indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but there remains much work to be done if Australia is to meet Close the Gap targets.

While we are pleased to see continuing improvements of mortality rates in heart disease it remains the leading killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples

We are also pleased to see continued improvements in heart disease and smoking rates.

We also welcome the Government’s commitment to the breaking down of barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples receiving the best hospital treatment when presenting with symptoms of Acute Coronary Syndrome

Key points to emerge from the report include:

  • We are not on track to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031.
  • Over the longer term, Indigenous mortality rates have declined significantly by 15 per cent since 1998.
  • Working collaboratively across governments, the health sector and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on local and regional responses is central to the Government’s approach to improve life expectancy.

National Heart Foundation CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly said while the report reveals positive gains in reducing the overall gap in health, there remained major challenges.

“For every positive step made towards closing the gap, there is still considerable work to be done if we are to achieve genuine progress,” said Adj. Prof. Kelly.

“The gains have been important, make no mistake There have been significant improvements in the Indigenous mortality rate from chronic diseases, particularly from circulatory diseases.”

The report also highlighted continued disparity in care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples presenting to hospital with signs of a heart attack.

“The National Heart Foundation and Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association’s Lighthouse Project aims to change traditional work practices that are seen as barriers to quality care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through cultural education in Australian hospitals,” Adj. Professor Kelly said.

“Phase 3 of this initiative, which was just last week given the green light thanks to an $8 million grant from the Commonwealth Government, will be a critical weapon in the fight to break down these barriers,

“We also look forward to the Government renewing and strengthening the National Rheumatic Fever Strategy this year.” 

The Heart Foundation is a member of the Close the Gap Steering Committee and is committed to supporting all Close the Gap efforts to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The full report can be found on the Closing the Gap website.

Media contact: Licardo Prince 0411 310 997,

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