Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to suffer the worst health of any group in Australia. The average life expectancy of Indigenous people in Australia is 17 years less than for non-Indigenous people, and mortality rates for Aboriginal children under the age of one are approaching twice those of non-Indigenous children.
As well as developing new vaccines and other technologies to improve Indigenous health, all the evidence points to the need to truly engage Indigenous populations in the quest to improve their own health outcomes. In tropical Queensland and Australia remote Indigenous communities, particularly the Torres Strait and northern Cape York Peninsula Area, are on the 'front line' in terms of the introduction of new and exotic diseases to Australia. This is evidenced by outbreaks in recent years of dengue and Japanese Encephalitis in the Torres Strait and the threat of TB and HIV, as well as typhoid, cholera and emerging infectious diseases that may enter Australia via the 'Indo-Papuan conduit'. To add to this disease burden the same communities are experiencing soaring rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease.
The QTHA is committed to improving prevention and control strategies for these diseases in Indigenous communities in the tropics of Queensland and Australia. This will include developing research training opportunities for Indigenous people and new research facilities to enable these communities to be full and equal participants in the solution to their own health problems. The benefits of this health research and development will have positive outcomes for Australia as a whole and potentially for some of our neighbours in the region. Key activities of researchers under this program are:
- assisting Indigenous and underserved populations to improve health and well-being
- engaging Indigenous communities in the tropics to develop strategies to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases affecting them.