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Health trends among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are improving in some areas, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Healthy for Life: results for July 2007- June 2011, shows rises in average birthweight, drops in maternal drinking and smoking, and increases in the proportion of clients with health assessments and care plans. 

The report presents information from services funded as part of the Healthy for Life program which focuses on improving maternal and child health care and improving prevention, early detection and management of chronic disease. The services are located in all states and territories and across all geographical areas of Australia, providing over 1.1 million episodes of care to 180,000 clients.

'Overall, there have been several improvements in health and healthy behaviours,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

 'For instance, the proportion of babies with normal birthweight rose from 80.0% to 84.2%, while babies with low birthweight dropped from 15.2% to 13.5% between 2008 and 2011 and average birthweight rose from 3,015 grams to 3,131 grams.'

Alcohol was consumed by 17.9% of women in the third trimester of pregnancy in 2011-a drop from 21.4% since 2008.

Among mothers, there was a very small drop in the proportion who smoked during the third trimester of pregnancy-from 53.4% to 52.4% between 2008 and 2011-an aspect where there is scope for considerable further improvement.

'There have also been improvements in accessing medical care and adoption of good health management practices,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

'For example, in 2011, two in three women attended their first antenatal visit before 20 weeks of pregnancy.'

Increases were seen in the proportions of people with chronic diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease who had a GP management plan as part of their treatment.

The proportion of clients who had an MBS GP management plan rose from 24.8% to 31.6% of people with Type 2 diabetes between 2008 and 2011 and from 22.9% to 33.4% for people with coronary heart disease.

Also, the proportion of people with Type 2 diabetes who had a blood pressure test in the last 6 months increased by nearly 10 percentage points from 52.7% to 62.3% between 2007 and 2011.

'This is an indication that more people with chronic disease are being well managed through primary health care services,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 27 February 2013

Further information: Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1146, mob. 0407 068 033

Full publication: Healthy for life: results for July 2007-June 2011