Goal 8: Indigenous-specific health checks—children aged 5–14

This indicator reports on the rate of Indigenous-specific Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) health checks among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14. The goal for this indicator is 46% by 2023.

Why is it important?

All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are eligible for an annual Indigenous-specific health check, subsidised through Medicare. These checks can be received for free at Aboriginal Medical Services and bulk billing clinics. The Indigenous-specific health checks were introduced in recognition that Indigenous Australians, as a group, experience some particular health risks. The aim of the Indigenous-specific 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 (AIHW 2019).

What data are available?

The following Indigenous-specific health checks are listed on the MBS:

  • MBS item 715: available from 1 May 2010, provided by general practitioners (GPs)
  • MBS item 228: available from 1 July 2018, provided by non-vocationally recognised medical practitioners (non-VR MPs).

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary telehealth items for Indigenous-specific health checks have been made available from March 2020 (through to March 2021):

  • Health checks provided via videoconference: MBS item 92004 (provided by GPs) and MBS item 92011 (provided by non-VR MPs)
  • Health checks provided via teleconference (when videoconferencing is not available): MBS item 92016 (provided by general practitioners) and MBS item 92023 (provided by non-VR MPs).

While many of the required components of an Indigenous-specific health check can be completed as a remote service via telehealth, some components can only be delivered through face-to-face consultation with the patient. This could include any necessary physical examinations such as a blood pressure check. For an Indigenous health check undertaken by telehealth to be processed via Medicare, all components of the health check, including both remotely delivered and face-to-face, must be completed (Health 2020).

What do the data show?

Progress towards the goal is not on track.

  • The rate of Indigenous-specific health checks among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 increased over time from 21% to 31% between 2014–15 and 2018–19.
  • In 2019–20, the rate decreased for the first time to 29%, which is likely to reflect changes in behaviour due to the measures introduced in early 2020 to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For more information on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of Indigenous health checks, see Impacts of COVID-19 on Indigenous-specific health checks.
  • The rates in each of the 4 years from 2014–15 to 2017–18 were above the trajectory required to meet the goal by 2023. However, in 2018–19 the rate (31%) fell below the trajectory point (33%) required to meet this goal and remained below in 2019–20.

In 2019–20, 49,011 health checks were provided for Indigenous children aged 5–14, corresponding to a rate of 29%. The rate of health checks among Indigenous children aged 5–14 varied by jurisdiction—ranging from 10% in Tasmania to 37% in Queensland.

Goal 8.1: Rate of Indigenous-specific MBS health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14

This figure shows the baseline data from 2006–07 to 2013–14, trajectory to the goal from 2014–15 to 2022–23. New data from 2014–15 to 2019–20 for the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 5–14 who attended a MBS health check are also plotted. The rate was trending upwards up until 2018–19. The rate fell from 31.2% in 2018–19 to 29.2% 2019–20, which is likely to reflect changes in service use due to COVID-19.

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Goal 8.2: Rate of Indigenous-specific MBS health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14, by state and territory, 2019–20

The figure shows the rate of MBS health checks among Indigenous Australians aged 5–14, by jurisdiction and sex. The highest rates are in Queensland (37.8% of males, 35.9% of females). The largest difference across sexes is in the Australian Capital Territory (23.8% of males and 19.5% of females).

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References

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019. Indigenous health checks and follow-ups. Cat. no. IHW 209. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 15 October 2020.

Health (Department of Health) 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Telehealth items guide. Canberra: DoH. Viewed 15 October 2020.