Key findings

A summary of the key findings under each tier are outlined below focusing on main areas of improvement and concerns. Main findings from the report are also given in a table format for ease of reference.

While the health status of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory is worse than their non-Indigenous counterparts against most indicators, significant health gains have been made in a number of areas. This shows a positive move towards closing the gap in health disadvantage between Indigenous and non-Indigenous or other Australians.

Despite making progress in some areas, Indigenous Australians are lagging behind in a large number of areas where further improvements need to be made to close the gap in health disadvantage.

Health status and health outcomes

Areas of improvement

  • A significant decline in hospitalisations is seen for infectious and parasitic disease (32% decline) and for diseases of the respiratory system (18% decline) among children aged 0 to 14 years over the period 2000–01 to 2009–10.
  • Notification rates for syphilis among Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory have declined over the period 1994–96 to 2006–08 (average of 19 per 100,000 per year), showing a narrowing of the gap between Indigenous and other Australians.
  • Significant reductions in mortality have occurred among Indigenous people in the Northern Territory between 1991 and 2007 indicating a narrowing of the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health disadvantage:
    – infant mortality rate declined by 49% and reductions in deaths during neonatal and perinatal periods contributed to this
    – all-cause mortality rates declined by 33%
    – mortality from avoidable causes showed an annual decline of about 53 deaths per 100,000 population, equivalent to a 35% reduction over the period.

Areas needing further work

  • Babies of Indigenous mothers are over twice as likely to be of low birthweight as babies born to non-Indigenous mothers during 2006 to 2008.
  • Hospitalisations data indicate a number of areas of concern as the gap between Indigenous and other people continues to widen:
    – hospitalisation rate for all major health conditions for Indigenous Australia was 6 times the rate of other Australians in 2006–2008. Over the period 2001–02 to 2007–08, the overall hospitalisation rates have increased significantly
    – injury and poisoning-related hospitalisations among Indigenous people were 6 times the rate of other Australians in 2006–08. Hospitalisation for assault among Indigenous males and females was 8 and 69 times the rate of other males and females respectively

    – mental health-related hospitalisations increased greatly for Indigenous people from 8 per 1,000 hospitalisations in 2001–02 to 14 in 2007–08.

  • The incidence rate of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) for Indigenous Australians was 26 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians in 2006–2008 (188 and 7 per 100,000 people respectively).

  • Notification rates of gonorrhea for Indigenous people have increased significantly from 939 to 1,839 between 1994–1996 and 2006–2008.

  • Life expectancy at birth is lower among Indigenous males and females at 61.5 years and 69.2 years respectively compared with other males and females in the same jurisdiction (72 and 78 years) and compared with Indigenous males and females nationally (67 and 73 years).

Determinants of health

Areas of improvement

  • The rates of anaemia among Indigenous children aged 0–4 years have decreased significantly from 29% to 22% between 2004 and 2010. Significant improvements against various growth measures have also occurred during this period: proportions underweight declined from 10% to 8%, wasted declined from 7% to 5% and stunted from 16% to 14%.
  • Significant decline in the rate of hospitalisations among children aged 0–14 years was seen over the period 2000–01 to 2009–10 for nutritional anaemia (61% decline) and malnutrition (40%).
  • Although the notification rate for syphilis among Indigenous people is still 19 times the rate for non-Indigenous people, there has been a significant decline in the rate of notifications among Indigenous people over the period 1994–96 to 2006–08 (from 637 notifications per 100,000 to 431.2).
  • Higher rates of breastfeeding was achieved for Indigenous infants aged 0–3 years than for non-Indigenous infants of the same age group (88% and 77% respectively) in Australia in 2008.

Areas needing further work

  • 58% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over were living in overcrowded households in 2008.
  • Around 77% of Indigenous children aged 0–14 years were living in households with a daily smoker in 2007–08.
  • The proportion of Indigenous children in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 achieving all aspects of literacy and numeracy benchmarks was much lower than for non-Indigenous children in 2009.
  • Just over half the Indigenous people aged 15–64 years (51%) were employed in 2008 and 10% were unemployed. In comparison, 91% of non-Indigenous people in this age group were employed.
  • Indigenous people were 11 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be imprisoned in 2009 (1,700 and 153 per 100,000 respectively).
  •  Indigenous children aged 0–16 years were more likely than other children to be the subject of child protection substantiation (24 compared to 4 per 1,000 in 2008–09) and the proportion of Indigenous children who were the subject of substantiation increased over the period from 1999–00 to 2008–09.

  •  In 2007, Indigenous mothers were nearly 3 times as likely as non-Indigenous mothers to smoke during pregnancy (44% compared to 16%).

Health system performance

Areas of improvement

  • 97% of Indigenous mothers attended at least one antenatal care session during pregnancy in 2007.
  • A high proportion of Indigenous children aged 2 and 5 years were fully immunised (91% and 86% respectively) in 2009. This was higher than the proportions of other children immunised. 
  • Although the proportion of Indigenous women aged 50–69 years participating in the BreastScreen Australia program is lower compared to all women, between 2003–04 and 2007–08 there was an increase in the proportion of Indigenous women screened (22% to 24%).
  • In 2006, 73% of discrete Indigenous communities reported that one or more health promotion programs had been conducted, with well babies programs reported by 65%, women’s health programs reported by 62% and men’s health programs reported by 61% of communities.
  • In 2006–08, 100% of hospital admitted episodes for Indigenous and other persons occurred in accredited hospitals.

Areas needing further work

  • Approximately 61% of hospitalisations for Indigenous Australians had a procedure reported compared to 78% for other Australians in 2006–08.
  • Indigenous persons were hospitalised for ambulatory care sensitive conditions at over 4 times the rate of other persons (170 compared to 40 per 1,000) in 2006–08. The rate for acute conditions increased by 37% and for chronic conditions by 98% between 2001–02 and 2007–08.
  • Indigenous persons were much more likely to be discharged from hospital against medical advice than other persons across all age groups in 2006–08. Indigenous children aged 0 to 4 years were 27 times as likely as other children to be discharged against medical advice.
  • In 2006 in the Northern Territory, Indigenous people aged 15 years and over accounted for around 9% of the total health workforce which was much lower than the proportion of the Northern Territory population that is Indigenous (30%).