Urban Aboriginal people at high risk from coronavirus
The federal government moved to socially isolate remote Aboriginal communities but needs to do more to protect those in urban and rural areas, say experts.
Academics including epidemiologist Fiona Stanley, a former Australian of the Year, have called on the federal government to improve collaborative arrangements with Aboriginal-controlled service organisations in urban areas to better manage risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – 79 per cent – live in urban areas.
The academics point out that elderly and those with underlying conditions are most at risk of severe illness and dying from the virus.
“Chronic diseases such as respiratory diseases (including asthma), heart and circulatory diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney diseases and some cancers are more common in Indigenous people, and tend to occur at younger ages, than in non-Indigenous people,” they wrote in the online magazine The Conversation.
“These diseases, and the living conditions that contribute to them – such as poor nutrition, poor hygiene and lifestyle factors such as smoking – dramatically increase Indigenous people’s risk of being infected with coronavirus and for having more severe symptoms.”
While Aboriginal controlled health services are important and successful in providing culturally sensitive and appropriate care they point out that “these health services are not adequately funded or prepared to manage a coronavirus pandemic in urban centres”.
“They need more personal protective equipment (including masks). They also need more Aboriginal health workers, community nurses and others for testing and contact tracing.”