Avoidable and treatable chronic diseases are the main reason for the large gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are two-and-a-half times more likely to have poor health than are non-Indigenous Australians and are more likely to die early from a chronic disease.
The Commonwealth, State, and Territory and governments, through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), have committed to 'closing the gap' between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. To guide the initiatives aimed at 'closing the gap', COAG set six targets. Two of these targets relate specifically to reducing the numbers of deaths among Indigenous people:
As a part of the overall COAG commitment, governments at all levels agreed to provide $1.6 billion over four years, including $805.5 million from the Commonwealth, for a range of measures aimed at improving health outcomes for Indigenous people. In addressing the target for life expectancy, COAG prioritised the reduction of chronic disease among Indigenous people.
To start closing the gap in life expectancy by avoiding chronic disease, a national network of Healthy Lifestyle Workers, Regional Tobacco Coordinators and Tobacco Action Workers has been established. These workers, based within a variety of organisations, work in regional teams in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia to help people make healthy lifestyle choices and reduce their chance of developing an avoidable chronic disease. The Healthy Lifestyle Workers in particular will work with communities in their region to promote and support healthy living through healthy lifestyle information, activities and programs.
This Healthy Lifestyle Worker web portal has been developed to help Healthy Lifestyle Workers take a community-driven, grass-roots approach that enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities develop their own healthy lifestyle activities and chronic disease messages. These activities and messages will target the chronic diseases that are a priority in their communities and regions. Other people promoting healthy lifestyles and good health in the community will also find this web portal useful.