Health and wellbeing the key gap to close in Cape York

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As an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO), Closing The Gap in Cape York is the ultimate goal for Apunipima Cape York Health Council.

This year on Close The Gap Day, Apunipima is using the occasion to highlight the inequities that still exist between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

According to Apunipima’s CEO Debra Malthouse, Closing The Gap in health outcomes between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people dictates the organisation’s entire strategic direction.

“Everything we do is driven by the fact that safe quality health care is a basic human right that should be accessible to all Australians, regardless of their cultural background or where they live,” Ms Malthouse said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have consistently worse health outcomes than non-Indigenous people due largely to inequities in access to health services. Ms Malthouse stressed that the impact of this inequality is particularly pronounced in the Cape and other remote communities where barriers to accessing healthcare are even greater.

“Additionally, there is often a lack of understanding among healthcare providers about the unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. As a result, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not receive the appropriate healthcare services.”

Research has shown that improving the overall health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations also requires addressing the underlying social determinants of health such as access to housing, education, employment opportunities, food security and a range of other factors.

Ms Malthouse said that Apunipima and other ACCHOs work with local stakeholders, governments and businesses to identify ways in which these social determinants can be addressed so that members of remote communities can lead healthier and happier lives.

“While health is only one of many areas in which the Gap needs to be Closed, at Apunipima health comes first. Healthy and happy people make better students, better workers, better family members, community members and better role models,” she said.

Apunipima continues to call for more resources to be made available for community-controlled health organisations to increase the speed with which the gap is being closed.

Ms Malthouse argues if we as a nation are serious about achieving better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we need to ensure that Community-Controlled Health Organisations have the resources they require to deliver the care that is needed.

“We will not achieve the goal of ‘closing the gap’ unless culturally responsive approaches are taken when delivering care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities. This approach is the foundation of Community-Controlled Health Care and with every passing year the research and statistics continue to point to the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Care positively impacts the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”