A new report has again shown mixed results in one of Australia’s most important healthcare efforts.

There is still a long way to go to close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the population, but the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report says progress is being made. 

Life expectancy at birth for Indigenous males and females has increased, and mortality rates for some chronic diseases have declined significantly, AIHW says.

Visiting the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) in WA, Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash says the unique position of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector has played a big role.

“I am pleased there have been some improvements, such as a reduction in smoking rates, a reduction in infant deaths, as well as notable improvements in mortality rates from circulatory and respiratory diseases and a slight improvement in life expectancy,” she said.

“However, it is clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians still experience poorer health outcomes at higher rates and younger ages than non-Indigenous Australians.

“So despite progress in some areas, a significant journey remains to close the gap. It is through continued efforts of services such as SWAMS and through collaborative partnerships at all levels that progress to address inequities in health outcomes can be achieved.”

She said more money will be spent.

“We are expanding programmes that target our most vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous mothers and babies,” the Assistant Health Minister said.

“The Better Start to Life, for example, is a key programme which will receive a $94 million injection over three years.

“This includes $54 million to establish 51 additional New Directions sites to ensure more Indigenous children can access effective child and maternal health services.

“A further $40 million will be invested to expand the evidence-base Australian Nurse Family Partnership Programme from three to 13 sites around Australia to provide targeted support to Indigenous families with high needs.”

The Government has pledged to put $3.1 billion into Indigenous health programmes and activities between 2014-15 and 2017-18.