Global study highlights Indigenous health gap

Global study highlights Indigenous health gap

Cooee May 2016 Indigenous ChildrenMain photo: Internally displaced Indigenous children in Colombia (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

The world’s biggest study on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people has found that living in a richer country like Australia doesn’t necessarily give Indigenous people an advantage. 

The study of more than 150 million Indigenous people in 23 countries is the result of a global collaboration between The Lancet and the Lowitja Institute in Melbourne.

It found that the gap in life expectancy of Indigenous people in Australia is in some cases on par with Indigenous people in less developed countries.

Overall, the report shows that no matter where you live in the world, being Indigenous means you will live a shorter, poorer and less healthy life than a non-Indigenous person.

In Peru, Indigenous children are four and half times more likely to suffer from malnutrition. In China, being Indigenous makes you almost three times as likely to live below the poverty line.

And in Australia, Indigenous children are twice as likely to be born underweight.

The report's lead author is Professor Ian Anderson, the chair of Indigenous education at the University of Melbourne. He says social inequity such as access to education and jobs needs to change to improve the health of Indigenous people around the world.

The Lancet-Lowitja Institute report was made possible by the collaboration of 65 world-leading experts in Indigenous health.

Participating countries included Australia, United States, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, China, India, Thailand, Pakistan, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Myanmar, Kenya, Peru, Panama, Venezuela, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Researchers assessed data on basic population, life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, low and high birthweight, maternal mortality, nutritional status, educational attainment, poverty and economic status.

The study was commissioned in response to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development signed in September 2015 which has the stated aim “to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate changes, while ensuring that no one is left behind”.

The study highlights the need for a concerted effort to ensure that reliable and high quality data is collected on Indigenous status across all data systems in order to monitor change and inform policy and service delivery.

It calls on the UN to drive a global push for better information gathering on Indigenous and tribal populations, lamenting that only 15 of the 23 countries record Indigenous status in data collection. Australia leads when it comes to data collection, it says.

Find out more about The Lancet-Lowitja Institute report