What is Closing the Gap?

Equal access to healthcare is a basic human right, and in Australia we expect it.

In Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live 10 years less than non-Indigenous Australians .

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities experience a disproportionately high burden of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart, kidney and lung disease, significantly contribute to the greater morbidity and premature mortality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. There are a range of factors which contribute to chronic health conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. These factors, although well documented, are complex and often result in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people presenting to health services late in the course of their disease, which in turn leads to significantly higher rates of complications and death. Chronic disease in Aboriginal people brings with it cultural and complex issues that challenge our current health care models.

How will the South West Hospital and Health Service support all communities to work together to Close the Gap?

The statistics for every chronic condition in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people populations requires a rethink in the way we identify and respond to the provision of early screening and assessment, early diagnosis and intervention and ongoing life-style coaching models of care that can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s journey to enjoyment of better health outcomes.

Achieving better health for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples requires much more than the provision of clinical services.
Reducing health disparity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples requires a whole of organisation understanding of respect of cultural differences and needs, and a commitment to applying this understanding across all areas of the health service.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Leadership Advisory Council (ATSIHLAC) has been established so that key positions strongly connected and trusted in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can strategically advice and support the South West Hospital and Health Service to deliver culturally capable, compassionate care that is patient centred and valued by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and families.

Working in real partnerships with Aboriginal Medical Services and other local service providers; engagement with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are two critical enablers to achieving success in Closing the Gap on health inequities. We know that ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health’ means not just the physical wellbeing of an individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community. Effective governance for designing ‘trusted’ service models for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities requires there to be a cultural ‘match’, as legitimacy is grounded in culturally based standards, values and systems of authority. Leadership includes strong vision and direction from Elders in family and community (both male and female) and strong role models who have time to listen and advice. ATSIHLAC members will play a vital role in the support of strong and smart Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander local leaders who are capable of acknowledging, embracing and developing a strong sense of Indigenous cultural identity within their communities.