There is a very big issue in relation to the inequity of social determinants and health inequality in Australia. This issue exists within the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The Australian population consists of an estimated 787,000 (3.3% of Australia’s population) Aboriginal Australians in 2016 with an increase of 19% from 2011 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW] 2018). As a population group, Indigenous Australians are at a much larger risk of experiencing these health inequities and inequalities due to many factors (AIHW, 2018). Some of these factors include access to health, distribution of resources, life expectancy and many other factors that influence their health. The Indigenous population have far poorer health outcomes compared to non- Indigenous Australians and unfortunately this gap is widening (Le Grande et al., 2017). The purpose of this essay is to explain the inequities and health inequalities that are experienced by Aboriginal Australians and to discuss why these problems have arose.
Inequities in social determinants help to explain the gap in health status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (AIHW, 2018). One of the most influential inequities in social determinants experienced by Aboriginal Australians is the difference in socioeconomic status. Your socioeconomic status determines whether you can afford to buy healthy food for your family or be able to send your children to school. According to the AIHW (2018) the five leading causes of death were all related to socioeconomic status. One issue that arises with having a low SES status is that you are more prone to chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease. Within the Indigenous population group, they are 2 times more likely to have CHD and 2.1 times more likely to die from it compared to non-Indigenous Australians (AIHW, 2018). A study conducted by Markwick, Zahid, Darren and John (2019) concluded that Aboriginal located in Victoria were two times as likely to report poor health compared to non-Aboriginal Victorians and 15% of this was due to socioeconomic status. Another inequity experienced by Aboriginal Australians is access to health care. Health care for Aboriginals is quite important as they at a larger risk of developing of health issues (AIHW, 2018). In 2015-16, the Medicare Benefits Schedule showed that general GP claims had a 10% increase for Indigenous Australians compared to non-Indigenous Australians but claim rates for specialist services were substantially by 43% (AIHW, 2018). This issue could be due to difficulty in access to these services.
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On average Indigenous Australians have a higher chance of participating in risk factors which includes things like smoking tobacco, alcohol consumption and inadequate physical activity. Of the 100% of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, 19% of the health gap is accountable for due to risk factors (AIHW, 2018; Markwick et al., 2019). Smoking is the largest risk-taking behaviour that Indigenous Australians partake in because its easily accessible and not many Aboriginal families are well educated in the effects that tobacco have on your body (AIHW, 2018). There is a difference of 42% or 2.8-times chance of an Indigenous Australian to smoke compared to a non-Indigenous Australian. These statistics are what prove that Aboriginals are more likely to develop smoking related diseases like lung cancer and COPD. Another very common risk-taking behaviour that Aboriginals partake in is alcohol consumption. As of 2008, a study conducted by the AIHW (2018) showed that 19% of Aboriginals at the age of 15 or over drunk at a “lifetime risky level” but dropped to 15% in 2014-15 and 38% of them drank alcohol in large volumes with a short term risk and dropped to 31%. The gap between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous is still a 7% increase but the gap is slowly shortening.
The health inequalities experienced by Indigenous Australians gives us an insight as to why there is such a large difference in the health gap. Issues such as poverty and life expectancy are some of the biggest problems that have arose. An Indigenous Australian is projected to live around 10 years less than a non-Indigenous Australian and Indigenous children and babies are two times more likely to die (AIHW, 2018). Although Indigenous Australian men are more likely to die at a younger age, Indigenous females are also more likely to die compared to a non-Indigenous female Australian. The reason this large gap in life expectancy exists is due to the lack of education for Indigenous Australians and the money they earn (AIHW, 2018). A lot of Indigenous Australians are in the lower percentile of the average yearly wage of Australians. Because of this, the lower income Indigenous Australians are more prone to participate in risky health behaviours such as smoking (AIHW, 2018). A study conducted by the AIHW (2018) concluded that Indigenous Australians who lived in higher socioeconomic areas were more educated about living a healthy lifestyle and less likely to participate in risky health behaviours.
The results concluded in the above studies indicate that Aboriginal Australians experience inequities in social determinants, inequalities in risk factors and health inequalities.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018). Australia’s Health 2018. Canberra, ACT: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
- Le Grande, M., Ski, C. F., Thompson, D. R., Scuffham, P., Kularatna, S., Jackson, A. C., & Brown, A. (2017). Social and emotional wellbeing assessment instruments for use with Indigenous Australians: A critical review. Social Science & Medicine, 187, 164–173.
- Markwick, A., Ansari, Z., Clinch, D., & McNeil, J. (2019). Perceived racism may partially explain the gap in health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians: A cross-sectional population based study. SSM – Population Health, 7, 100310.
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