INDIGENOUS HEALTH ESSENTIALS

Even though there have been improvements in the wellbeing and overall health of the aboriginal Australians in recent years, there are still some longstanding challenges. In fact, organizations such as Kalinda, an inaugural Wingara Mura Leadership Program Fellow, launched in 2016 continues to survey new ways to deal with the disparities in health outcomes for Indigenous people of Australia, who are of Aboriginal origin, Torres Strait Islander origin or both. They experience uneven heights of employment, education, and social disadvantages, which have led to poorer healthcare accessibility. Cultivating an environment with fortification from mental and physical abuse as well as offering chances for personal growth is all vital for an extended and blissful life.

 Who Are Indigenous People?

A nation comprises of a large number of people with solid links of identity. The national identity is characteristically founded on common religion, language, customs, or ethnicity. Indigenous people definition comprises the notions of first nations/people, tribes, ethnic groups, aboriginals, Jana jati, and Adivasi are all a part of a nation. Indigenous people differ from other citizens in that they symbolize a vast diversity of convictions, philosophies, dialects, customs, and histories. In addition, their notion of therapeutic differs from other citizens.

Indigenous Concept of Health and Healing

There are two types of sickness, physical and mental. Physical illness is caused by different kinds of toxins, accidents, and infectious diseases, whereas mental illness, is due to fear, anxiety, and anger among other emotional issues. Thus, health is an overall physical, social, and mental fitness and not simply the absence of frailty or illness. Indigenous people perceive health in a similar approach. They perceive it as the congruence that exists between people, societies, and the universe.

In various parts of the world, Western biomedical attention and traditional healing ways work hand in hand. For the indigenous population, however, due to their connection to the ancestral way of life, depends heavily on the customary ways of healing. In fact, almost 80% of the developing countries' population has been projected to depend on traditional healing strategies as their prime source of health care.

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Health Status and Dynamics of Indigenous People

Mortality rates and expectation of life are crucial variables of the health status of a population. Non-indigenous Australians tend to outlive Indigenous Australians and their death rates are half those of indigenous citizens.

Statistics

For children born between 2010 and 2012, an indigenous girl has a life expectancy of 73.7 years, and the boy is likely to live to 69.1 years. For other citizens, a girl could live up to 83.1 while a boy up to 79.1 years.

Between 2007 and 2011, Indigenous Australians had advanced mortality rates in all age sets when paralleled to non-indigenous. Moreover, the 35-44 age set died at almost 5 times the non-indigenous rate.

Social Determinants of Indigenous Health

Several aspects including the environments in which a person lives can affect one's health. Health social determinants are aspects that can have helpful and adverse impacts on the well-being of people and communities. Indigenous social health determinants include:

Housing 

A 2011 survey indicated that for indigenous Australians, the ratio of homelessness was 14 times that of non-indigenous. Additionally, 59% of Indigenous households were renters and 36% owners, compared with 29% and 68% of non-indigenous families.

Education

In all learning institutions, indigenous students were significantly lesser than non-indigenous students. Approximately 49% of indigenous students continued schooling until the age of 12, compared with 81% of non-indigenous students.

Employment and income

In 2011, 50% of indigenous people who exceeded 15 years had weekly revenue of less than $362 compared with $582 for non-indigenous people. Approximately 61% of non-indigenous people were working, compared with 42% of Indigenous. Indigenous Australians had an unemployment percentage rate of 17% compared with 5% for non-indigenous people.

Social determinants effect on health

Indigenous Australians could assess health care better if they had better levels of education, incomes, and were homeowners. This could lessen the health gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Indigenous Health Gap

There have been significant advancements in national Indigenous health policy, such as the assimilation of the Indigenous allied health Australia, to represent Torres Strait and Aboriginal allied health students and professional. However, Indigenous Australians continue to access poorer health services than non-Indigenous Australians.

Causes of the Gap

The Indigenous Burden of Disease Survey for Australia has established that the following behavioral risk aspects could explain the 49% of health gap:

  • Obesity (16%)
  • Smoking (17%)
  • High blood cholesterol (7%)
  • Physical dormancy (12%)
  • High blood pressure (6%)
  • Alcohol (4%)
  • Low consumption of fruit and vegetables (5%)
  • Prohibited drug intake (4%)
  • Juvenile sexual abuse (2%)
  • Violence (3%)
  • Unprotected sex

The health gap continues to exist due to the failure of addressing the root causes. Other aspects that have widened the gap include:

Behavioral risk factors 

Unsafe health behaviors like too much consumption of alcohol and smoking have widened the gap significantly. These unsafe behaviors are attributed to social disadvantages.

Access to health services

Poor access to valuable health services has contributed towards the health gap. Some of the reasons that hinder indigenous Australians from getting health care include distance and transport concerns and lack of inexpensive services among others. Indigenous health issues can also be allied to the fact that children born into these families usually reside in remote places where governments don't capitalize on fundamental social services.

The Changing Nature of Indigenous Health

The movements to narrow the gap between the Torres Strait and Aboriginal health and other citizens are gaining popularity. The following are some of the organizations on the forefront of bridging the gap:

Inala indigenous health service that aims at improving the wellbeing and health of Torres Strait and aboriginal people through a series of health, clinical promotion, and research activities

Indigenous health conference that intends to reinforce life expectancy of indigenous people to be equivalent to that of non-indigenous Australians

Institute for Urban Indigenous Health programs that strategize, cultivate and provide wide-ranging health care services to the South East Queensland Indigenous population

The indigenous Australians have been marginalized for many years as discussed above. Although their concept of health and healing can be compared to the Western Biomedical health, social determinants have disadvantaged the indigenous Australians causing a noticeably wide health gap. However, with several organizations and programs emerging to close the gap, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

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