Despite the efforts that have been made to improve the well-being and health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in recent years, disparities regarding the health of the indigenous populations and the rest of the Australians remain prevalent. These disparities are significant as they cause a lower life expectancy among the indigenous people (Waterworth et al., 2015). The health inequality witnessed stems from social inequalities. Several socioeconomic and cultural factors play a role in the observed differences. They include practices by the indigenous people themselves and societal exclusion they face (Kronenfeld, 2013, 112). Some health determinants that contribute to the health problems among the indigenous people include employment and income, education, racism and racial prejudice, and health behaviors and lifestyle.
Education is an important health determinant among the indigenous Australians. The reason for this is that education has an impact on the quality of life led by the indigenous population and also it affects other health determinants such as employment and level of income. Although formal education was introduced to Australia in the 19th century, it was not until 1966 that the first indigenous person graduated from the university in Australia. The historical oppression of the indigenous people has placed them at a disadvantage regarding the acquisition of education. In comparison to other Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a significantly high number of individuals without formal education up to college level. The low levels of education among them negatively impacts on their health both directly and indirectly. The lack of education implies there is a prevailing ignorance on what practices are healthy or unhealthy. The result is that most indigenous people engage in activities that pose a risk to their health without knowing it. Some of these activities include the choice of their diet. Their dietary intake is characterized by low consumption of fruits and vegetables and high consumption of calorie-laden diets. Higher cases of obesity among them are evidence of this. With education, it could be easier for them to understand what good health practices are and be able to appreciate the importance of leaving a healthy life. Education also impacts on the life chances of individuals, even in Australia. Low levels of education witnessed in indigenous people lowers their life chances, especially for the younger generation. It results in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians leading a poor quality of life characterized by inadequate housing and diet. This is because the indigenous people lack the relevant education to be employed and be able to earn an adequate income to obtain basic needs such as accommodation and healthy diets comfortably. Through its effects on other health determinants, education impacts on the health of indigenous Australians. The level of education determines the life chances of an individual by playing a role in the availability of employment opportunities for them.
Employment and income are significant determinants of health in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. There is an association between higher mortality rates and the socio-economic status of the indigenous people. They are economically disadvantaged in comparison to their non-indigenous counterparts. This significantly contributes to the health disparities witnessed. Among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, high rates of unemployment exist relative to other non-indigenous Australians. The rate of unemployment is about 17 percent among the indigenous and 5 percent in other Australians (Waterworth et al., 2015). The unemployment among the indigenous people has been attributed to the colonization which stripped them of their possessions, restricted them to reserves, and prevented their children from learning their culture and language. This colonization implies that it disadvantaged the indigenous people by taking away their land thereby making it difficult for them to engage in any income-generating activities. Most of the Aboriginals and Torrens Islander Australians are not educated, impacting on their chances of getting employment, particularly of a formal kind. Other factors such as racial prejudice also contribute to this unemployment. The unemployment and low-income levels among these people have several implications for their health and well-being. It impacts on their choice of diet and nutrition. Financial constraints determine the choice of foods and thereby their dietary consumption. Good nutrition is known to prevent some diseases, specifically chronically illnesses. Due to budgetary constraints, the diet of indigenous people is composed mainly of refined carbohydrates and lacks an abundance of vegetables and fruits (Brimblecombe & O'Dea, 550). The impact of this on their health is that they are unable to obtain the necessary nutrient requirements needed for the prevention of some diseases and general good health. Unemployment and low income also make it difficult for the indigenous population to access healthcare facilities (Stewart, Hardcastle & Zelinsky, 2014, 485). The lack of access to healthcare facilities impacts on their health as they lack the necessary treatments to prevent the mortality caused by diseases that can be remedied with early intervention. Such diseases include cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular complications that can be managed in with the help of healthcare professionals. Insufficient funds also result in poor or overcrowded housing among the indigenous population. The effect of this that they are at a higher risk of developing some diseases. Another may in which employment and income issues affect the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is that low income often as a result of unemployment causes psychological stress among them. The stress affects their mental health and also predisposes them to other lifestyle problems. These lifestyle problems include the use of drugs such as alcohol and tobacco as a means of coping. These predispose them to a range of diseases.
Racism and racial discrimination plays an essential role in the disparities observed pertaining the health and well-being of non-indigenous and indigenous Australians. Racism affects the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through various ways, and also by impacting on other health determinants such as employment, education, etc. (Priest et al., 2011, 546). The traumatic experiences experienced by the indigenous Australian population when they were colonized and oppressed continue to have a physical and psychological impact on them. In a study carried out, about 52 percent of the participants reported that they had experienced racism (Priest et al., 2011). These self-reports of racial discrimination was associated with poor general and mental health among the indigenous people, and also to some extent; it was linked to depression. Both historical and contemporary racial prejudice plays a role as determinants of Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal health. Among the young indigenous population, self-reported racism has been linked to behavioral and emotional difficulties, drug abuse, and suicide risk (Priest et al., 2011). An effect of racism on these people is that it causes psychological stress. The distress created by the racism that indigenous people experienced in the past and also in the present prevents them from accessing healthier choices and considering more appropriate health behaviors. The psychological stress affects the health of these people as they tend to resort to coping mechanisms such as abuse of substances that are health risk factors (Calma, Dudgeon & Bray, 2017, 257). Psychological distress also exacerbates poor health conditions and increases the risk of developing disorders such as stroke, depression, coronary heart disease, and stroke. Another significant effect of racism is that mainstream health care facilities and health interventions do not fit into the way of life of the indigenous population. They are based on models that work for the non-indigenous Australians which may not be reproducible with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Racism also breeds distrust between the indigenous people and the non-indigenous. The impact of this distrust is that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders lack access to essential health education and better health practices. The loss of trust observed among the indigenous people can be attributed to the social exclusion that stems from racism. The distrust affects the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians as they are unwilling to seek medical help in mainstream health facilities (Markwick et al., 2014). The impact of this on their health is detrimental as on most occasions; they present at the hospital when their illness is already too advanced. Some disease conditions such as high blood pressure usually go undiagnosed until the symptoms become advanced. To a great extent, racism and racial prejudice has negative effects on the health of the indigenous population through its psychological effects and limiting the opportunities they have.
The health behaviors of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is a determinant factor for their health. Some of these behaviors include alcohol consumption, tobacco use, diet, and physical activities. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians engaging in these detrimental health behaviors affect their daily lives and their eventual health outcomes (Marmot, 2005, 1101). Specific factors are responsible for the higher prevalence of unhealthy behaviors in the indigenous people. Some include higher levels of psychological stress among them that drives them to resort to such coping mechanisms. Another is the lack of information on the implication of these habits on their health. In comparison to non-indigenous Australians, there is a high level of tobacco use in the indigenous population. A study revealed that about 43.8 percent of the native Australians were daily smokers of tobacco whereas only 15.7 percent of the non-indigenous Australians were daily smokers (Waterworth et al., 2015). Tobacco use predisposed them to several diseases associated with such lifestyle choices. One of the significant diseases that is associated with tobacco use is cancer of the lungs, throat, etc. there are higher incidences of cancer and higher levels of morbidity from the same among Aboriginal and Torrens Islanders. Studies carried out indicate that alcohol consumption is higher among these people. The consumption of high amounts of alcohol is a health risk. It predisposes them to several diseases. Some of the illnesses include diabetes, high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis, etc. Most of the indigenous population also engage in very little physical exercise and have a poor dietary intake. Studies indicate that their diet is composed mainly of high energy refined carbohydrates as opposed to the recommended nutritious fresh foods such as whole-meal grains, vegetables, and fruits (Brimblecombe & O'Deal, 2009, 549). The effect of this is that there are higher incidences of obesity among them in comparison to the rest of the population. One effect of lack of adequate nutrient intake is that the ability of the body to resist infections is compromised. The consumption of high energy refined foods and minimal physical exercises results in higher levels of low-density cholesterol which predisposes to several disorders. The most critical disease...
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