Health Disadvantages Indigenous Australians

For most indigenous people, health disadvantages begin at birth, and this inequity is appalling. Something must be done to close the gap by 2030.

Socioeconomic factors are associated with education, employment, and income, and each, has a substantial influence on the health of Indigenous Australians. Education, which is inaccessible for many Indigenous people, allows for the greater knowledge of health issues, and the increased understanding of both protective behaviors and risk factors. It is a known fact that with a lack of education or one that is poor, there is a increased risk that there will be less employment opportunities – ultimately leading to little or no income. Hence, the vicious poverty cycle is born. Education enables Indigenous Australians to develop a sense of empowerment, and in turn increases the probability that they will take steps to improve their health. If an Indigenous child has had an insuffienct education, they will not have had any opportunities that assist them in evaluating health information and products. Research has shown those with higher levels of education have a reduced chance of smoking, being inactive and suffering from obesity. It’s the absence and inequality of education that has led to obesity among Indigenous Australians – with 28% of those over 15 being overweight, and 29% diagnosed as obese. Obesity increases the risk of developing health problems including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, injury and certain cancers. The individual may not be aware of which foods are healthy, may not be able to afford it, may not take part in physical activity daily, use tobacco and abuse alcohol – and this occurs from deficient education.

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Additionally, environmental factors influence the health of Indigenous Australians in the areas of geographic location and access to health services and technology. Approximately 24% of people living in remote areas and 45% of those living in very remote areas are Indigenous. Aboriginals living in remote areas will experience negative impacts on their social, emotional and physical health. Indigenous people in these rural areas experience a greater risk of injury due to the dangers associated with travelling on country roads that are often of poor quality, long distances and fatiguing. Indigenous people are 3 times more likely to die from traffic incidents than non-Indigenous people. Aboriginals in remote areas will also face harsh living and working circumstances such as; drought and floods. From this, injury, disease, emotional distress and financial hardships occur. Aboriginal Australians in remote communities with large distances between other people and society may find it difficult to maintain and create social support networks. The inability to make and prolong relationships leads to a sense of isolation, and contributes to poor mental health and depression. Hospitalisation rates for self-harm are representative of mental illness, depression and stress – and in 2006, Indigenous Australians were 3 times more likely to be hospitalized for severe self-harm than other Australians. In 2011, 80% of suicides of the ages 19 to 24 were Aboriginals. This occurs due to isolated geographic location.

Evidently it is of utmost importance that there be a strategy put into place to help improve the health of Indigenous Australians in regards to the Socio-economic factor of education, and the environmental factor of geographic location. This strategy must be effective and realistic, to ensure that the gap begins to be closed before 2030. A proposed action that should be put into place is the development of a “Community Centre”, in the mid point of a rural township. This centre would feature a shuttle bus service, picking up and dropping off the person when wanting to commute to the facility. The shuttle service would hopefully reduce the injury experienced from traffic incidents on rural roads. This community centre would be a hub, where Aboriginals could come, in order to receive educational courses or classes; on the topics of drug awareness and abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence, healthy eating and much more. As well as educational classes, there would be fun activities that they would be able to participate in, such as sports, healthy cooking, arts and crafts and other alternatives. Whilst being at the community centre, there is the opportunity to receive an education, and also forge friendships. The opportunity to receive an education, especially on the topics listed previously would increase the awareness of health issues and knowledge of protective behaviors, fundamentally attempting to break the poverty cycle and enabling empowerment to flourish within the Aboriginal. Whereas the possibility to create friendships, and returning to the “Community Centre” on a regular basis would assist in the reduction of Indigenous Australian’s in rural area’s feeling isolated and depressed – further reducing the number of hospitalization rates from self harm, mental illness and suicide.

In conclusion, it is perceivable that something MUST be done soon in order to close the gap by 2030 to create greater equity between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians. There is NO excuse!

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