… that the AMA is into lifting weights?
The Australian Medical Association has published a report card on Indigenous Health each year since 2002. This year’s report, Lifting the Weight, uses data from the ABS and other sources, collected during 2001, and concentrates on low birth weight.
Did you know that Indigenous babies are twice as likely as non-Indigenous babies are to have low birth weight, that is, to weigh less than 2500g at birth? This reduces their chance of immediate survival twenty-fold, and places them at higher risk of heart disease in adulthood. Low birth weight is also associated with prematurity of the kidneys and pancreas, predisposing those affected to hypertension and diabetes. Hypertension and diabetes account for a major chunk of the excess mortality among Indigenous people, reducing their life expectancy by 20 years when compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Did you know that there are no countrywide data on the number of premature births among Indigenous women, even though this frequently contributes to low birth weight?
The AMA details five programs – in Townsville, the Northern Territory (since 1993), Nganampa in South Australia, and Kintore in Alice Springs and Congress Alukura also in Alice Springs – that give glimmers of hope that we can intervene and, together, we can succeed in solving this problem. The AMA estimates that Indigenous people need an additional $20 million each year to pay for the additional staff, pharmaceuticals, food and transport to deal with low birth-weight Australia-wide. Helping Indigenous mothers not to smoke during pregnancy, providing food supplements, and assisting teenage mothers and others to reduce alcohol consumption during pregnancy are practical policies that may, according to evidence from trials, help ‘lift the weight’ of our Indigenous babies.
See the report here.
Professor Stephen Leeder
Director, Australian Health Policy Institute
Australian Health Policy Institute
at The University of Sydney
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