Closing the Gap has just widened

The Australian Medical Association says the Closing the Gap strategy has “all but unravelled” and insists that the policy needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, starting with boosting health expenditure on indigenous Australians and putting Aboriginal healthcare in Aboriginal hands, The Guardian reported.

The article says this issue will be considered at the December meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, but the AMA president, Tony Bartone, says Closing the Gap needs root-and-branch reform, not changes “without adequate funding and commitment from all governments to a national approach”.

The AMA will release a new report outlining six principles to reboot the signature program, starting with a new investment in Indigenous health, recognising that burden of disease in the community is 2.3 times greater than that faced by the non-indigenous community, The Guardian reported.

The AMA says mental health needs to be central in any refresh, and afforded the same level of priority as chronic disease. It notes that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found mental and substance use disorders are increasing the disease burden among Indigenous people.

“Further, and suggestive of a growing mental health crisis that must be addressed, in 2017 the Australian Bureau of Statistics ranked suicide as the second leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, and reported that over the period of 2008-12 and 2013-17 the rate of suicide deaths in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has increased by 21 per cent,” says the report, according to The Guardian.