More Indigenous Australians accessing health checks, but many still miss out

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are missing out on health checks for which they are eligible, even though the number of health checks is rising, according to new data released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The data, released through the AIHW's on-line Indigenous health check data tool, shows the total number of Indigenous health checks rose from about 71,400 to over 122,000 between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The proportion of Indigenous people having the annual check (the usage rate) rose from 10.7% to 17.5% over the same period.

'Although usage rates increased, over 82% of Indigenous Australians (over 576,000 people) did not have a health check in 2012­-13,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

'All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are eligible for an annual Indigenous-specific health check designed to address the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The health check, which is rebated by Medicare, was established because Indigenous Australians have considerably higher rates of illness and death than non-Indigenous people, with earlier and more severe disease progression for many chronic diseases.

The checks aim to increase preventative health opportunities, detect chronic disease risk factors, better manage existing chronic disease and reduce inequities in access to primary care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Medicare data on which the tool is based do not cover all clinical services provided to Indigenous Australians. Health check equivalents may be provided but not recorded in the Medicare system.

Usage rates have increased each financial year for both males and females, but are consistently higher for females than males.

Patterns of usage also vary across age groups. Children under 4 years old and people aged over 25 have higher rates of usage of the checks, with lower rates in the 5-14 age group.

The number and usage rate of health checks rose in all jurisdictions. Usage rates were highest in the Northern Territory and Queensland and lowest in Tasmania.

The tool will be updated with 2013-14 data when it is fully available.

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, 20 August 2014

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