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Healthcare Policies - Australian Community

Introduction

In Australia, out of 25 million people, only 3.3 people belong to the group of Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders. These indigenous individuals of Australia have to witness many health disparities as they belong to disadvantaged groups and often live in remote areas with limited healthcare accessibility. These people need a holistic approach for ensuring their good health which is inclusive of cultural, ecological, social, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing for the community and for the individuals. The federal and state government of Australia have taken a number of steps in the form of programs, plans and policies to restore their health status and make it equal to the rest of the Australians.

Current policy

The current policy of the government is to address the poor health status of these people through multiple interventions and giving care to people at all the stages of their life according to Althaus, C., Bridgman, P., amp Davis, G. (2017). The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan has been made by the commonwealth to build up a framework which links the different and important activities of community health and also aims to identify the area which are in need of focus. This is done to provide guidance for investment in future and for making effort to improve the health of these disadvantaged group in Australia. The following programs and services have been introduced for providing better healthcare.

The Medical Benefits Schedule health checks had been increased in their number for these groups and it had been increased from2 2,500 during 2006 to 2007 to nearly 197,000 during 2015 to 16.

Services of Primary health care which are specific to the indigenous people have provided services in 3.9 million cases and addressed the healthcare needs of 461,500 indigenous patients across Australia in remote regions.

With the effective policy, the mortality rates of children have fallen down in the age group of 0 to 4. This number dropped from 217 per 1 lakh indigenous birth in 1998 to 146 in the year 2016.

Shortfalls in the policy

In spite of the government taking a number of steps and Australia being one of the best countries in providing healthcare still some gaps have been identified from the previous and current policies are given below.

The indigenous people still have a significant lower life expectancy in comparison to their non-indigenous companion Australians and therefore they have been found to be at a risk twice likely to rate their own health as poor. Apart from it, the indigenous Australians are also susceptible to hearing and ear problems and they are 2.9 times more prone to encounter this long term disease especially among children. Smoking is also in their culture which makes them susceptible to respiratory problems. Gould, G. S., Cadet-James, Y., amp Clough, A. R. (2016) the maternity smoking in this group has also shown adverse health outcomes for their babies and this necessitates action by the government.

Hinton, R., Kavanagh, D. J., Barclay, L., Chenhall, R., amp Nagel, T. (2015) pointed that the mental health of these people is also not found to be good and not addressed by the current or the previous policies taken up by the government and figure shows that they are 2.7 times more likely to suffer from psychological distress. The child mortality rate has decreased in comparison to previous years yet it is not equal to the non-indigenous group. Also its is 2.1 times more probable that these children may not enter into their fifth year. The newly born babies are also found to be of low birth weight (LBW) amongst this group and they are 1.9 times more likely to have LBW in comparisons to non-indigenous people.

Thus from the above data it is clear that the current policies have been formulated well but they have not been able to achieve their target to the full extent. The reason can be pointed to faulty implementation and lack of understanding of the cultural environment of these people which often acts as an obstacle in the delivery of the healthcare as designed by the government according to Li, J. L. (2017).

Therefore, the disparities are well-established between the indigenous and non-indigenous people. These people are socio-economically backward and are the groups which have one of the lowest life-expectancy in the world. However, the major concern of the health policy maker was on the low birth weight of the children of the indigenous people. The threat of low birth weight or being born pre-term is a cause of concern for these people according to Kildea, S. V., Gao, Y., Rolfe, M., Boyle, J., Tracy, S., amp Barclay, L. M. (2017). It has been found that the occurrences of LBW in indigenous babies is two times more than non-indigenous people. Following figure shows the comparison of LBW rates internationally
Source- Kildea, S. V., et al. (2017).

The above data is in contradiction to the claims of Australias National Maternity Services Plan (NMSP). As according to it, this country is the most safe place for taking birth and giving birth as given in the Commonwealth of Australia, National Maternity Services Plan (2011). But there is health disparity as the indigenous people do not have the full access to medical services and aids required to give birth to a healthy baby.

Policy development

A framework has been used for the policy development of these people and it is called as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework. This is utilized for assessing the current health status of these people and hence guides the process of policy development by monitoring the progress of the health status of these people. There is a need of an effective, efficient policy that aims to provide equality in health services to the indigenous people. This is necessary so that efforts of the government are targeted to address the gaps identified in the health status of these people. Apart from the government has also taken actions and initiatives in the areas of employment, housing, safety and education for achieving sustainable health outcomes. This framework has been used for making health policy to reduce the gaps identified and was also agrees upon by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

An investment of 4.8 billion has been made by the government for the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. This strategy aims at working on programs in five different areas which are children and their education, health and safety, jobs, economy of land and locals, culture and capacity and specific plans for people living in remote parts of Australia. The IAS aims to make communities of these people safer and partner with these people to uplift their health status as in this strategy the indigenous community is at the center and local solutions are made to address their local needs.

Apart from it there are other programs like the Australian Government Indigenous Australians Health Programme has been launched for the child and maternity health. Indigenous Australians Health Programme is aimed at reducing the smoking and providing services of general physicians, allied health outreach services and specialists as an outreach workforce which is based at the organization of health control for the aboriginal community and thus it provides healthcare services to them. The government has made many programs for this disadvantaged group which have yielded results however still this group in lagging behind from their fellow Australians in their health status and thus the health policy formulations has to be more targeted at their specific health needs and provide a holistic framework to address the healthcare services gap.

Conclusion

It is thus concluded that the government has taken a lot of efforts for the improvement of the health status of the indigenous people but still there are gaps between them and non-indigenous people. One reason it the lack of a comprehensive account of the health of these people which could guide the policy formulations as suggested by Azzopardi, P. S., Sawyer, S. M., Carlin, J. B., Degenhardt, L., Brown, N., Brown, A. D., amp Patton, G. C. (2018). These people have been found to rely on their local medical help and seek for medical advice from local people instead of rushing to the hospitals. The need of paramedics and pre-hospital are not met properly amongst these people according to Willis, E., Reynolds, L., amp Keleher, H. (Eds.). (2016). Therefore, there is a need to create awareness amongst these people for the need of availing healthcare services from professionals. Also awareness has to be created for the different programs launched by the governments so that they actively participate in it. There is also a need in remote regions to address the primary healthcare of these people to ensure better health outcomes according to Reeve, C., Humphreys, J., Wakerman, J., Carter, M., Carroll, V., amp Reeve, D. (2015). Hence, these people have to be provided with better healthcare by improvising the existing health policies and framing future policies that incorporate them as partners in healthcare delivery and also acknowledge their cultural requirements. Russell, L., amp Dawda, P. (2014) noted that it is also strategically imperative for the bureaucrats, government, clinicians and administrators to act in collaboration to provide equitable healthcare.

References

Azzopardi, P. S., Sawyer, S. M., Carlin, J. B., Degenhardt, L., Brown, N., Brown, A. D., amp Patton, G. C. (2018). Health and wellbeing of Indigenous adolescents in Australia a systematic synthesis of population data.The Lancet,391(10122), 766-782.
Commonwealth of Australia, National Maternity Services Plan, (2011). Canberra Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council, 2011.
Gould, G. S., Cadet-James, Y., amp Clough, A. R. (2016). Getting over the shock taking action on Indigenous maternal smoking.Australian journal of primary health,22(4), 276-282.
Hinton, R., Kavanagh, D. J., Barclay, L., Chenhall, R., amp Nagel, T. (2015). Developing a best practice pathway to support improvements in Indigenous Australians mental health and well-being a qualitative study.BMJ open,5(8), e007938.
Kildea, S. V., Gao, Y., Rolfe, M., Boyle, J., Tracy, S., amp Barclay, L. M. (2017). Risk factors for preterm, low birthweight and small for gestational age births among Aboriginal women from remote communities in Northern Australia.Women and Birth,30(5), 398-405.
Kildea, S., Tracy, S., Sherwood, J., MagickDennis, F., amp Barclay, L. (2016). Improving maternity services for Indigenous women in Australia moving from policy to practice.Medical Journal of Australia,205(8), 374-379.
Li, J. L. (2017). Cultural barriers lead to inequitable healthcare access for aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.Chinese Nursing Research,4(4), 207-210.
Reeve, C., Humphreys, J., Wakerman, J., Carter, M., Carroll, V., amp Reeve, D. (2015). Strengthening primary health care achieving health gains in a remote region of Australia.Medical Journal of Australia,202(9), 483-487.
Russell, L., amp Dawda, P. (2014). Lessons for the Australian healthcare system from the Berwick report. Australian Health Review 38(1), 106108
Willis, E., Reynolds, L., amp Keleher, H. (Eds.). (2016).Understanding the Australian health care system. Elsevier Health Sciences.

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