Australia report shows 'tragic' health for Aborigines

SYDNEY, Nov 11, 2009 (AFP) - Aborigines can still expect to die up to 11.5 years earlier than other Australians and are twice as likely to die as infants, figures showed, despite government pledges to tackle their health problems.

The Australian Medical Association said its latest indigenous health assessment showed "tragic" prospects for the country's original inhabitants, with disproportionate levels of disease and mortality, particularly among men.

An Aboriginal man born between 2005 and 2007 could expect to die at age 67, 11.5 years earlier than a non-Aboriginal man and six years earlier than an Aboriginal woman, according to the AMA's data released Tuesday.

They were twice as likely to die in the first year of their lives as other males, and 1.4 times more likely than Aboriginal girls.

Aboriginal males had much higher rates of hospitalisation at 876 in every 1,000, compared with 358 in 1,000 for men more broadly, and were also more than twice as likely to be hosptialised for mental health and behavioural disorders as other Australian males.

More than one-quarter had been threatened with or been a victim of violence in the last 12 months, and 12 percent of young Aboriginal men aged between 12 and 17 had contemplated suicide, the AMA found.

"Our efforts as a nation to close the gap on indigenous life expectancy will not succeed unless we turn around the high rates of poor health and early death among indigenous boys, adolescents and men," said AMA president Andrew Pesce.

Australia came under fire from a United Nations envoy who in August said racism was "entrenched" in its policies, despite a historic apology for past wrongs delivered by centre-left Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Rudd has committed to halving the gaps in infant mortality, overall life expectancy, literacy and numeracy achievement and school completion rates within 10 years for Aborigines, who make up 2.5 percent of Australia's 22 million population.

Source: AFP

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