Equitable access to healthcare is a basic human right, and in Australia, we expect it. So what if we told you that you can expect to live 10 years less than your next-door neighbour? You wouldn’t accept it. No-one should. But in reality, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People can expect to live 10 years less than other Australians.
This was one of the findings of the recent Close the Gap Committee 2015 Close the Gap Progress and Priorities report. It also found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more than three times likely to have diabetes, as well as other high levels of treatable and preventable conditions, compared to other Australians. Read the full report presented to the Prime Minister and Parliament on 11 February 2015.
What the APA believes is important to help Close the Gap?
We have a long way to go in addressing the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – including strengthening access to physiotherapy to prevent many of these chronic health diseases. There are major gaps in physiotherapy service access that need urgent attention from government. The APA believes there should be more investment in physiotherapy in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations as well as other programs to improve workforce availability and culturally appropriate physiotherapy services.
We also believe greater investment is needed to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people to be part of the physiotherapy workforce, as well as culturally appropriate physiotherapy services to these communities. It will lead to better health, social, economic outcomes to benefit Australia.
APA’s work in helping to Close the Gap
As a coalition partner of the Close the Gap Committee, the APA provides advice and support to the Committee, as well as educates our members and the communities we work in on the importance of access to physiotherapy to address this issue.
We have developed the APA’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to advocate for better access and get more physiotherapists engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including raising awareness through educational and professional development opportunities.
Part of this plan includes empowering our physiotherapy members to deepen their understanding of Aboriginal cultural values, beliefs and practices. We recommend that all of our members and staff complete a Cpd4physios 2.5 hour course called Cultural Orientation Plan for Health Professionals. The course allows for students to follow five self-directed learning modules on: Culture, self and diversity; Aboriginal history; Working with Aboriginal people; Providing clinical services; and Improving cultural security. This is available free of charge to APA members any time.
The APA is also advocating for extending the scope of physiotherapists to prescribe limited medications and refer patients direct to medical specialists within hospitals and remote areas with a Medicare rebate – providing a ‘one-stop shop’ for managing conditions and seeing improved health outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These populations often have reduced access to health services, so providing a one-stop shop of primary health care through these types of reforms is vital to help close the gap.
Finally we are proud to recognise and promote partnerships with public and private organisations that enhance physiotherapy involvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Examples include a partnership between Alice Springs Hospital and Adelaide Hospital’s Women’s and Children’s Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Department to provide specialist care to Aboriginal children from across a one million square kilometre area – see the video via our YouTube channel. It also includes the Success or Significance Foundation, founded by Back In Motion, where physiotherapists volunteer in remote and disadvantaged areas.