Improving the health of Indigenous Australians must be a national priority as Australia celebrates 40 years of counting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as full citizens, AMA Vice President, Dr Choong-Siew Yong said today.
"This year is the 40th anniversary of the referendum in which Australians voted to officially include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as part of the population," Dr Yong said.
"But Indigenous Australians still do not enjoy equal health status with their fellow citizens.
"We, as a nation, must work to rectify this appalling situation and ensure that all Australians enjoy equally good health and equal access to health services."
Average life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 17 years less than that of other Australians, and Indigenous people suffer much higher rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and renal failure, among other diseases.
The Indigenous infant mortality rate is more than twice as high as that of non-Indigenous Australians.
"In the last 20 years, disease and mortality rates of Indigenous people relative to the rest of the population have changed very little," Dr Yong said.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer a disproportionate burden of illness and social disadvantage when compared with the general population."
Despite slightly increased investment in 2006, the shortfall in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care services has blown out to about $460 million a year.
"I repeat the AMA's call for this year's Federal Budget to include a commitment to Indigenous health of $1.8 billion over four years," Dr Yong said.
"Australia's international reputation and national conscience demand a concerted coordinated effort to bring the health of Indigenous Australians into the 21st century."