Physiotherapists get behind closing the gap

19 March 2015

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) – a coalition partner of the Close the Gap Committee – is urging the Federal Government to improve physiotherapy access as a key component of primary healthcare to prevent, detect and manage chronic health conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

As part of its Close the Gap Day (19 March), APA physiotherapists, employees and Elders from the Wurundjeri people gathered at the APA’s National Office in Camberwell to highlight the need to address the high levels of treatable and preventable chronic conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to other Australians – including that they are more than three times likely to have diabetes. 
Aboriginal APA Sports Physiotherapist Michael Reynolds will also share insights on providing culturally safe physiotherapy services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“There is still a long way to go before we close the gap on health inequality,” APA Chief Executive Cris Massis said. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People can expect to live at least 10 years less than other Australians. There are also high numbers with undetected treatable and preventable chronic conditions that impact significantly on life expectancy – such as diabetes and kidney disease.(i)

“Physiotherapy plays a vital role in addressing these health issues. And that’s why we’re advocating strongly to government and supporting initiatives that improve resources and access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to physiotherapy services.”

Through implementing the APA’s Reconciliation Action Plan as well as other advocacy initiatives, the Association aims to help ‘close the gap’. Specifically the APA aims to:

  • Raise awareness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of the importance of physiotherapy in treating or preventing undetected treatable and preventable chronic conditions
  • Advocate to government to provide better access to physiotherapy services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 
  • Improve opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be part of the physiotherapy workforce.
  • Provide culturally safe physiotherapy services through professional development and training opportunities for physiotherapists, and ensure that this begins with entry level qualifications.
  • Educate APA physiotherapists on providing culturally safe healthcare services via the professional development course, ‘Cultural Orientation Plan for Health Professionals’. 
  • Advocate extending the scope of physiotherapists to prescribe limited medications and refer patients directly to medical specialists with a Medicare rebate – providing a ‘one-stop shop’ for managing conditions and improving access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 
  • Support partnerships with public and private organisations to enhance physiotherapy involvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including a partnership between Alice Springs Hospital and Adelaide Hospital’s Women’s and Children’s Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Department, providing specialist care to Indigenous children from across a one million square kilometre area.

The APA Close the Gap breakfast event was held from 8am on 19 March at APA’s National Office, Level 1, 1175 Toorak Road, Camberwell. It is one of more than 1,300 around Australia that serve as an expression of national commitment to be the generation that closes the gap.
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For further information, or to speak with an expert physiotherapist, please contact
:

Katie Croft - Australian Physiotherapy Association
P: (+61) 3 9092 0891 M (+61) 0413 780 545
E katie.croft@physiotherapy.asn.au

References
(i) Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee, Close the Gap: Progress and priorities report 2015, February 2015.

1) Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee, Close the Gap: Progress and priorities report 2015, February 2015.