This Wednesday (21 March 2019) marks this year's Close The Gap Day, which focuses on tackling the poorer health of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared to the non-Indigenous population, with the aims of closing the Indigenous Health gap by 2030.
In the latest annual Closing The Gap Report from the Government, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said:
“While progress has been made over the past decade, only two of the ambitious targets are on track. It shows we need to change the way we work. I believe that the progress needed can only be accelerated through a deeper partnership with the states and territories and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Top-down does not work, only partnerships do.”
One area where more progress is needed is in closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. While improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health will be a focus on the next National Men’s Health Strategy, work to Close The Gap is likely to part of a much broader strategy.
According to Morrison, for example, “Closing the Gap will be embraced as a whole of government agenda with all governments sharing accountability for progress and extending this shared accountability to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.
This article provides a short update on progress towards improving Indigenous male life expectancy, highlighting 3 facts taken from the Government’s Closing The Gap report for 2019.
1. The Close The Gap Life Expectancy Target Is Not On Track
The target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 is not on track. Between 2010–12 and 2015–17, Indigenous life expectancy at birth for males did improve by 2.5 years for Indigenous males, but while this has led to a small reduction in the gap, it is not considered to be statistically significant.
While the annual increase in life expectancy for Indigenous males was 0.5 years between 2010–12 and 2015–17, according to the Indigenous life expectancy trajectory, the annual rate of increase required was about 0.75 years.
2. The life expectancy gap is biggest for Indigenous males
However we measure it, the life expectancy gap is biggest for Indigenous males:
- The life expectancy gap between Indigenous males and Indigenous females is 4 years (compared with 3.2 years for Non-Indigenous males and females)
- The life expectancy gap between Indigenous males and non-Indigenous males is 8.6 years (compared with 7.8 years for females)
- The life expectancy gap between Indigenous males and non-Indigenous females is 11.8 years
3. The gap gets bigger with remoteness
Indigenous life expectancy estimates for both males and females reduce with increasing remoteness while non-Indigenous life expectancy estimates are similar across remoteness areas. This results in particularly marked gaps in life expectancy estimates in remote and very remote areas.