Dietitians Association Australia raises diet of ATSI people as a key area in Closing the Gap – by Amanda Griffiths

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is calling on the Federal Government to get serious about improving food and nutrition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The call comes after University of Newcastle researcher, Dr Mark Lock, recently exposed the failings of the Federal Government to address this crucial public health issue.

will diet policy help Close the GapRobyn Delbridge of the DAA said that nutrition and dietetics professionals alongside Aboriginal Health Workers and similar organisations are encouraged to participate in renewing the hope that all Australians should receive high quality and affordable food and nutrition, particularly those ATSI people who have some of the worst health outcomes in the nation.

Part of the government’s commitment to close the gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians are the annual Indigenous-specific health check. All ATSI people are eligible to go in to see a GP for this check, regardless of their age. The health check is listed as item 715 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), and is aimed at providing primary health care matched to indigenous needs by supporting early detection, diagnosis and intervention for common and treatable conditions. Only about 1 in 5 Indigenous people had one of these health checks in 2013-2014.

A report released in July 2015 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Institute of Family Studies looked at cultural competency in the delivery of health services for Indigenous people. It said that:

  • Cultural awareness training on its own is not enough
  • Education for health care students that incorporates cultural perspectives and experiences can improve health students’ preparedness for working in Indigenous health & a commitment to working for change
  • Bringing together the cultures of health care organisations with Indigenous communities can improve access to health care for indigenous Australians, and includes health care organisations:
    –  Consulting with Indigenous Australian health services & communities
    –  Tailoring service delivery to the needs and preferences of specific communities
    –  Embedding cultural competence within the health care organisational culture, governance, policies, and programs

So although diet is one part of Indigenous health as it is anyone’s health, it is apparent that it needs to be integrated into a system-wide approach.

Amanda Griffiths – Founder My Health Career.

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