- Between 2004 and 2008, 66% of Indigenous deaths occurred before the age of 65 compared with 20% of non-Indigenous deaths.
- The rate of diabetes in Indigenous children is six times higher than non-Indigenous children.
- In 2010 Indigenous Australians were hospitalised for potentially preventable conditions at five times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.
- Cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death for Indigenous people in 2004-2008.
- In 2004-2008, Indigenous people were more than five times more likely to die from kidney disease than were non-Indigenous people.
Red Dust travels to some of Australia’s most remote areas where we work in partnership with communities to achieve something we all take for granted – good health.
Red Dust’s unique approach to achieving health outcomes is working. We partner with communities to best target specific local needs – this is not a one size fits all approach. We encourage Indigenous youth to learn more about health by using channels they respond to such as sport, art, music and dance. We improve knowledge and skills of Indigenous youth and inspire them to live a healthy lifestyle through the influence of positive role models.
The following details some more basic facts about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, with information about Indigenous people, health problems and common risk factors.
Indigenous women in Australia have more babies than non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women generally have babies earlier in life than non-Indigenous women.
Indigenous Australians die at a younger age than non-Indigenous Australians. Currently, Indigenous women are expected to live until almost 73 years of age and Indigenous men are expected to live until around 67 years of age. These estimates have been revised and are substantially higher than they were in the past.
Indigenous people are admitted to the hospital more than non-Indigenous people. Many of the admissions involve dialysis (a treatment for kidney disease).
Indigenous people make up 2.5% of the population in Australia. NSW has the largest Indigenous population and the NT has the highest proportion of Indigenous people.
Identification of Indigenous status
The identification of Indigenous people for statistical collections is based largely on self-identification.
What do we know about specific health conditions among the Indigenous population?
Diabetes is much more common among Indigenous people and occurs at younger ages than among non-Indigenous people
Indigenous people are diagnosed with cancer less frequently than non-Indigenous people, but the mortality of Indigenous people from cancer is higher than that of Indigenous people.
Indigenous people are diagnosed more frequently and suffer higher mortality from cardiovascular disease than non-Indigenous people.
The main eye conditions among Indigenous people are refractive erroe, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and trachoma.
Smoking is more common among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people, contributing to a greater burden of disease.
The level of ear disease in the Aboriginal population remains much higher than that of the general Australian population, particularly in many rural and remote communities, but there is evidence of some improvement in recent years. Rates of otitis media (OM) in some Aboriginal communities are among the highest in the world, with patterns similar to those seen among disadvantaged populations in developing countries. The level and severity of OM is generally of great concern, but, reflecting the heterogeneity of the Aboriginal population and the environmental conditions in which they live, the prevalence of OM varies greatly between communities.
The World Health Organization considers a population with a prevalence of chronic eardrum perforations of greater than 4% to be at high risk, constituting a major public health problem requiring immediate attention. In many Indigenous communities, the prevalence of chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM) (which involves eardrum perforation) among infants, children, adolescents, and adults exceeds this level.
Hearing loss is significantly worse in Indigenous communities than in the wider population. When it occurs in the first few years of life – a critical period of child development – it has major implications for speech and language development and learning. These negative effects are likely to be compounded in Aboriginal children, many of whom have to adapt to an educational environment where the language and culture differs from that of their home environment.
Developmental, educational, and vocational consequences are compounded by continued poor access to therapy, hearing aids, special teachers, classroom sound-field systems, and other rehabilitative programs.
A recent education inquiry has highlighted the impact of ear disease and hearing loss on the educational achievement of Indigenous students. The findings of the inquiry were documented in Katu Kalpa: Report on the Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Education and Training Programs for Indigenous Australian. The report identified ear disease and associated hearing loss as one of the most significant learning barriers faced by Indigenous students. The hearing needs of Indigenous people have received specific attention and funding under the current National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.
The first case of diabetes among Indigenous people was recorded in Adelaide in 1923. Records prior to this time showed that Indigenous people were fit, lean, and did not suffer from any form of metabolic condition, which were largely believed to be a characteristic of European populations. The earliest detailed studies investigating the development of diabetes in Indigenous populations were not undertaken, however, until the early 1960s. These and subsequent studies found a significant correlation between the development of a ‘westernised’ lifestyle and the levels of type 2 diabetes in the Indigenous population.
Since that time, type 2 diabetes has been recognised as one of the most important health problems for Indigenous populations across Australia, with the overall prevalence likely to be around four times that of the general population. As well as making a major contribution directly to the excess mortality experienced by many Indigenous populations, type 2 diabetes is associated with a number of other chronic conditions, particularly renal disease. Type 2 diabetes is also responsible for a variety of complications, the frequency of which are likely to increase in the future.
Diabetes is also a major contributor to Indigenous mortality, being responsible for more than 8% of deaths of Indigenous people living in Qld, WA, SA and the NT in 1999-2003. The numbers of deaths from ‘endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases’ (almost 90% of which were due to diabetes) were 7.5 times higher for Indigenous males than the number expected from rates for non-Indigenous males and 10.5 time higher than expected for Indigenous females. Among people aged 35-54 years, the death rate of Indigenous males was 21 times the rate of non-Indigenous males and the rate of Indigenous females 37 times that of non-Indigenous females.
A number of studies have noted the link between diabetes and high levels of obesity among Indigenous populations. It has been suggested that high levels of central obesity (which is particularly common among Indigenous people) may be linked to the ‘thrifty genotype’, and/or other genetic factors.
Regardless of the role of genetic factors, contemporary Indigenous diets and levels of physical activity are likely to be the crucial factors in the high levels of obesity seen among many Indigenous populations. The ‘westernisation’ of Indigenous communities has seen the replacement of a varied nutrient-dense diet with an energy-dense diet, high in fat and refined sugars. As well as contributing to the development of obesity, the increased consumption of snack foods, fruit-flavoured-juices, sugar-sweetened cool drinks, white bread, sugar, and canned meats in some Indigenous communities has been linked with the incidence of high blood pressure.
The main function of the kidneys is to regulate the mineral composition, water content and acidity of the body as well as being involved in the excretion of metabolic waste products and chemicals. ’Kidney disease’, ‘renal disease’ and ‘renal disorder’ are collective terms that refer to a variety of different disease processes that affect the kidneys. These disease processes involve damage to the working units of the kidney and a consequent reduction in filtering capacity.
Severe kidney disease and kidney failure are more prevalent among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people, but the high rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) (disease of the kidneys where the kidneys have stopped working) among Indigenous people have only been fully recognised in recent years. Rates are highest in northern Australian communities, where the incidence of renal failure among Indigenous people has been described as ‘epidemic’ in proportion. As a result, end-stage renal disease (ESRD) has dominated research and health service priorities.
A number of risk factors are associated with kidney disease including diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, low birth weight and obesity. These conditions are particularly common among Indigenous people and contribute to high rates of kidney disease. Factors include: sub-standard social and economic circumstances (poor living conditions, inadequate environmental sanitation and poverty), behaviours that may damage health – such as poor diet, low activity levels, and alcohol and tobacco use. Indigenous patients often present with various co-morbid conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, infections and poor nutrition.
All details provided have been sourced from http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/
At Red Dust we like to keep well informed with all current information regarding health, particularly for Indigenous people and for those living in remote communities.
Here are some great resources we often refer to that help guide our programs: