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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people can receive an annual health check, designed specifically for First Nations people and funded through Medicare (DHAC 2022a). This health check was introduced in recognition that First Nations people, as a group, experience some particular health risks (see Timeline of major developments in health check implementation).
The aim of these health checks is to encourage early detection and treatment of common conditions that cause ill health and early death – for example, diabetes and heart disease.
During the health check, a General Practitioner (GP) – or a multidisciplinary team led by a GP – will assess a person’s physical, psychological and social wellbeing (DHAC 2022a). The GP can then provide the person with health-related information, advice and care.
The GP may also refer the person to other health care professionals for follow-up care, as needed – for example, physiotherapists, podiatrists or dietitians (See Follow-up services overview and Health checks resulting in a follow-up).
Example health check templates for 5 different life stages can be downloaded from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners website.
As part of the Australian Government’s COVID‑19 response, telehealth items were introduced in March 2020 to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID‑19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers (DHAC 2022b). Telehealth consultations may be used for gathering information, but physical examination components are requirements of all health checks (RACGP 2020).
Data from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care national Key Performance Indicators (nKPIs) data collection suggest that GPs at Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) conduct nearly half of all health checks despite only making up about 1.8% of fulltime-equivalent general practitioners (GPs). See Tracking progress against the Implementation Plan goals for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023 (AIHW 2021).
This chapter presents information on the use of the following MBS items:
MBS item no.
Mode of delivery
Health check provided by a GP
Health check provided by a medical practitioner other than a GP (available from 1 July 2018)
Health check provided by a GP (available from 30 March 2020)
Health check provided by a GP (available from 30 March 2020 to 30 June 2021)
Health check provided by a medical practitioner other than a GP (available from 30 March 2020)
Health check provided by a medical practitioner other than a GP (available from 30 March 2020 to 30 June 2021)
Note: Outside of MBS item descriptions for health checks, the term 'GP' is used as a generic reference to all medical practitioners providing primary health care services.
The data include health checks billed to Medicare by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) or other First Nations health services, as well as by mainstream GPs.
Note that the data are limited to First Nations MBS items billed to Medicare, and do not provide a complete picture of health checks provided to First Nations people. For example, First Nations people may receive similar care through: mainstream MBS items (that is, items that are not specific to First Nations people); through MBS items delivered in residential aged care; through the Child Health Check Initiative (CHCI) under the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) that ended in June 2012; or through a health care provider who is not eligible to bill Medicare. Those have not been included in this report.
The minimum time allowed between health checks is 9 months. People can therefore receive more than one health check in a year.
- Throughout the report, ‘First Nations health check’ is used interchangeably with ‘health check’ to assist readability.
- People who received an MBS service are referred to as ‘patients’.
- All people who received a First Nations MBS service are assumed to be First Nations people.
- To show the proportions of First Nations people who received a health check in a given year, or ‘health check uptake’, the number of patients was divided by population data based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 – 2031 (ABS 2019b).
- Calendar-year data (30 June estimates) were converted to financial-year data by averaging estimates from consecutive years (approximating a 31 December estimate).
- Series B projections, based on the 2016 Census of Population and Housing and 2016 Post Enumeration Survey, were used for years following the 2016 Census. Backcast population data were used for years before the 2016 Census.
- For Primary Health Networks (PHN), Remoteness Areas, Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA), Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4), and socioeconomic clusters, projections have been approximated by the AIHW using ‘iterative proportional fitting’, supported by 2016 Census counts. This technique produces estimates that match the ABS’ published outputs when summed back up to larger areas.
- The ABS does not produce estimates of non-demographic changes over time, such as changes in whether a person identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander between Censuses. However, due to non-demographic changes, population estimates based on the 2016 Census may be considerably lower than those based on the 2021 Census, meaning many of the proportions presented in this report may be overestimated. For example, the ABS estimates that there were 984,000 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people on 30 June 2021 based on the 2021 Census (ABS 2023), compared with a projected 879,000 people on 30 June 2021, based on the 2016 Census (ABS 2019b).
- Population estimates from the ABS represent the population at a point in time (a stock measure), while patients in the MBS data are counted over a period of time (a flow measure). This mismatch can lead to bias since the population estimate may not accurately reflect the population able to receive an MBS service throughout the entire period.
- MBS health checks in this chapter are reported by date of service, which was not necessarily the date that the service was processed by Services Australia. MBS services in this chapter were processed on or before 30 April 2023, except for monthly data by telehealth status (on or before 30 June 2023).
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2019b) Estimates and projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 – 2031, ABS website, Australian Government, accessed 10 August 2023.
ABS (2023) Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 30 June 2021, ABS website, Australian Government, accessed 31 August 2023.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2021) Tracking progress against the Implementation Plan goals for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 10 August 2023.
DHAC (Department of Health and Aged Care) (2022a) Annual health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, DHAC website, Australian Government, accessed 10 August 2023.
DHAC (2022b) COVID-19 temporary MBS telehealth services, DHAC website, Australian Government, accessed 10 August 2023.
RACGP (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners) (n.d.) Resources to support health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, RACGP website, accessed 10 August 2023.
RACGP (2020) Telehealth – considerations for an effective Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health check, RACGP, accessed 10 August 2023.