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School-based health education programs can help ‘close the gap’ between young Indigenous people and other young Australians, according to a paper released today by the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse.

Indigenous Australians, including Indigenous children and young people, experience significantly poorer health outcomes than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

For instance, Indigenous children and young people experience higher rates of infection and illness and are twice as likely to suffer from disability or long-term conditions as their non-Indigenous peers. Indigenous young people also experience poorer emotional wellbeing, and are 3 times as likely to report high or very high levels of psychological distress.

The paper, Engaging Indigenous students through school-based health education, suggests the most effective health education programs for young Indigenous Australians are those that are embedded in the core school curriculum, provided by trained and well-resourced teachers, and informed by parents, community members and local health professionals.

A second Clearinghouse paper, Education programs for Indigenous Australians about sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses, was also released today.  

It shows that the best sexual health education programs incorporate detailed understanding of the local behaviours, knowledge, beliefs and practices that they are trying to influence.

There are considerable disparities in the sexual health of Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians, especially for rates of chlamydia (4 times as high), gonorrhoea (27 times), infectious syphilis (5 times), hepatitis B (4 times) and hepatitis C (3 times).

Indigenous Australians also have higher rates of bloodborn viruses and teenage pregnancies.

A third Clearinghouse paper, Constructing and maintaining houses, examines the standard of Indigenous housing in Australia, and identifies the benefits of community consultation; appropriate design, construction and materials; and ongoing inspection programs.

The paper also sets out the most important issues to consider in construction and maintenance programs, including: remoteness, climate, local environmental conditions, social and cultural factors, tenure, crowding and incomes in Indigenous communities.

The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (http://www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/) is jointly funded by all Australian governments and provides an online source of information on what works to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Canberra, 29 May 2012

Further information: Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1025 mob. 0409 307 671

Download Closing the Gap Clearinghouse publications