Holistic approaches and Indigenous involvement essential for effective programs to close the gap

Ways of improving the effectiveness of social and health-related programs among Indigenous Australians have been examined in two new papers released today on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website.

The paper, What works? A review of actions addressing the social and economic determinants of Indigenous health, reviews evidence relating to improving Indigenous outcomes and 'closing the gap' across a range of key social and economic determinants of health and wellbeing.

Social determinants include the broad social, political, economic, cultural and environmental context in which people live and the impact these contexts have on health and wellbeing. For example, quality of housing, level of income and education, opportunities for meaningful and productive work and rates of imprisonment.

The paper shows that there are initiatives that can address the social determinants of Indigenous health to improve outcomes, these include:

  • For housing-focusing on improving health hardware, such as physical infrastructure relating to sanitation, food preparation and water supply
  • For education-having high expectations of students and promoting a positive Indigenous identity
  • For health behaviours-restricting the supply of harmful substances.

The second paper released today Improving the early life outcomes of Indigenous children: implementing early childhood development at the local level, shows there are wide gaps in early life outcomes for Indigenous people compared to non-Indigenous people, such as higher rates of poor health conditions, hospital admissions and poor nutrition among Indigenous children.

Localised early childhood development works to overcome these disadvantages because it leads to a range of interventions that are tailored to address the local determinants of early childhood development. The Bush Babies Playgroup in the Orange Aboriginal community is a good example of a localised early childhood development initiative, and the Communities for Children Program in East Gippsland have shown positive impact on early childhood development outcomes. Both of these initiatives have met partnership and community capacity building objectives.

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).


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