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Sunday cartoon: indigenous health « Previous | |Next »
November 9, 2008

One of the pillars of the initial phase of the Northern Territory Emergency Response from a health point of view was the health checks carried out on up to 17 000 children aged 15 years and under in 73 target communities. The health checks were designed to bridge the seventeen-year mortality gap for all Indigenous people. By 19 October 2007, medical teams had already completed checks on more than 3200 children.

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What happens after the health checks? Those who are sick need treatment. How is that to happen? Fly in specialists?

William J H Glasson, a member of the emergency response taskforce, wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia:

The findings of these checks are sobering, and underline the need for the intervention. We already knew that the children in many of these communities had very high rates of chronic diseases, but have found that the situation is even worse than the official picture. The Indigenous population has a burden of disease up to six times higher than in the non-Indigenous population.

Probably 80% of the Indigenous children have middle-ear diseases. Intestinal parasites and skin infections are rife. An absence of water for washing — taps don’t run, toilets don’t flush, there is no soap — has led to skin hygiene so poor that pathogens thrive. This in turn contributes to the devastating levels of renal disease and heart disease, the latter particularly associated with rheumatic fever. Type 2 diabetes is also increasingly common in children.

The call has now gone out for health professionals, doctors, specialists and nurses to help out with the follow-up, but this type of approach to the delivery of needed health services is an emergency response and is not sustainable. Something more is needed.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:08 AM | | Comments (7)


It is sad to see that a country as developed and rich as Australia still is unable to provide basic health services to its indigenous people. I understand that there are complications and limitations in terms of logistics, but it should not be that hard to provide basic services: clean water, adequate facilities, etc. This is how it was in the US for indigenous people 100 years ago - now there is a network of both indigenous run and federally run health facilities that have gotten rid of all of these types of diseases. Can Australia not do the same?

I agree---increased expenditure on primary health care via a network of both indigenous run and federally run health facilities is what is needed. We know that social disadvantage, inactive lifestyle and poor nutrition are major contributors to chronic disease among Indigenous peoples. We have the knowledge base to reduce the devastating impact of early onset chronic diseases in those who already have the conditions, and to prevent or delay their onset in those who have not yet succumbed.

All countries in the world have a lower class that have limited access to good services and facilities. Why should we be different?

so we shouldn't do anything about improving the treatment of the chronic illness amongst indigenous people?

If you look back over previous comments by me around the time of the initial intervention you will see that I was happy about it.
My comment on this post is more about the social standing of the aboriginal race in todays Australia.

fair enough. But an emergency is a short term intervention. Once it has intervened to set things in order than there needs to be longer term or more permanent presence on the ground--eg police or ongoing health treatment. The latter--whether law and order or healthcare cannot be done by flying people in.

The underlying problem is that these people are in remote areas so the solution is to move them to where better facilities are.
Of course there would be problems and resistance to this so I guess things will stay the same with a few bandaids applied.
I am happy that the rape culture is beginning to change. But have little time to care when people cannot manage their own lives and make healthy life choices for the good of themselves and their families.