Improving the way money is spent on indigenous health could make the federal budget $12 billion a year healthier, a report shows.
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) chair Justin Mohamed on Wednesday called on the Abbott government to boost indigenous health funding in the May budget.
A report on the economic value of community health services has found raising the life expectancy of indigenous people could result in $11.9 billion in revenue and welfare savings for the government.
Currently, indigenous Australians can expect to live 10 to 17 years less than other Australians and babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other babies.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also experience higher rates of heart and kidney disease and diabetes.
The study found the network of 150 Aboriginal-controlled health organisations was making inroads on preventative health measures such as reducing smoking rates.
Demand for the services is growing at six per cent a year because they combine “clinical know-how with culturally enriched local knowledge” and were more highly favoured by indigenous people than hospitals.
Mr Mohamed said there was a direct link between better health and improved workforce and education participation.
“People who are ill can’t participate in the labour force … and children who are sick cannot participate in schools,” he said.
Mr Mohamed said indigenous health services were swamped by red tape and too much time was spent reporting to government.
“Imagine how many more Aboriginal people could be treated if the time taken to produce those reports was actually spent on child and maternal health programs and adult health checks,” he said.
The report said that for federal indigenous health funding to remain stable in real terms over the next three years an extra $263 million would be needed.
The Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council – which met in Sydney on Wednesday – is looking at ways to make spending on programs more efficient.
“It’s critical to keep the budget as it is in dollar terms, but we need to look at reallocation,” council chairman Warren Mundine told AAP.
He said there were question marks over the effectiveness of some justice, education and employment programs, but the government should seriously consider quarantining health programs.