Impact of COVID-19

To contextualise the impacts of the pandemic on the use of health checks in different months and jurisdictions, the ‘relative time that people spent at residences’, based on Google’s mobility reports, was used as a combined indicator of:

  • the degree of COVID-19 within the community
  • the extent of stay-at-home requirements
  • general hesitance in the population to move about freely.

The relative time spent at residences is defined such that positive values of the parameter correspond to people on average spending more time at home than in comparison to the pre-pandemic reference period. More information about alternative indicators of COVID-19, as well as a more detailed definition of time spent at residences, can be found under Progression of the pandemic.

Figure 5 shows the relative time spent at residences alongside the change in Indigenous health check use in 2020 and 2021 from prior years. The monthly changes in service use were mostly decreases when comparing 2020 and 2021 with 2019, which was the year with the highest number of Indigenous health checks. Because the month-to-month pattern in health check numbers is somewhat variable, particularly in areas with small Indigenous populations, Figure 5 also includes the option to compare the 2020 and 2021 service use to the numbers in 2017 and 2018.

Comparing the health check numbers in 2020 and 2021 with the numbers from 2019, health check numbers generally tended to decrease when the relative time spent at residences was high across Australia (Figure 5). This relationship was particularly strong in New South Wales and Victoria, which were impacted strongly by COVID‑19 (Figure 4, in 'Progression of the pandemic'), and less obvious in states with smaller Indigenous Australian populations, and where the pattern of month-to-month variation differed significantly across the years (Figure 3). The changes in health check use relative to 2019 were at times of notable size, sometimes at a scale comparable to that seen during the initial wave of COVID‑19 in April 2020, without an accompanying change in the time spent at residences. This suggests that this mobility measure only partially captures the reasons why the month-to-month variation in use of health checks over the course of 2020 and 2021 was different to what was seen before the pandemic.

Figure 5: Relative time spent at residences and change from prior years in number of Indigenous-specific health checks, by month, telehealth status, and location, 2020 to 2021

An interactive line graph showing the number of Indigenous-specific health checks in each month of 2020 and 2021 relative to the same month in an earlier year, by telehealth status. Population mobility, represented by relative time spent at residences, is shown as well. Location and comparison year can be selected from a dropdown menu. Refer to tables 'CV05' and ‘CV04d’ in data tables.