Incentives to help close the gap in Aboriginal health

1 April 2011

There should be greater use of medicines and other incentives to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, according to a senior Indigenous Health Service director.

Writing in the latest edition of Australian Prescriber, Dr Noel Hayman, clinical director at Inala Indigenous Health Service, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use medicines at a lower rate than other Australians, despite initiatives in place to improve access to treatment.

“The increase in the burden of chronic disease should be reflected in an increase in the prescription of drugs for the treatment of heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, mental health and lung conditions. However this isn’t happening.”

“Most general practitionersworking in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services are aware of schemes to assist people, such as the Indigenous Chronic Disease Package. However, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access mainstream general practice where some doctors may be unaware of the initiative,” Dr Hayman writes.

A problem can be identifying eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Once indigenous people are correctly identified and registered with Medicare Australia they are eligible for assistance with the co-payment for prescriptions. There are also medicines available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr Hayman concludes that the initiatives in places have the potential to help to close the gap in health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

To read the full article and more visit


Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published by NPS, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Prescriber is published every two months, in hard copy that is distributed to health professionals free of charge, and online in full text at