Social determinants of health
Following European colonisation of Australia, epidemics of infectious (communicable) diseases with extremely high morbidity and mortality struck Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations.
The diseases with the most serious effects were:
- Smallpox (mortality rate >30%)
- Measles (mortality rate >20%)
Communicable disease management and prevention has always required a comprehensive, multi-layered strategy. As our understanding of health has grown to address the intricate relationship between our environment and our health and wellbeing, strategies to manage and prevent communicable diseases have had to evolve to include the social determinants of health.
With this in mind, when reading the Vaccination for Our Mob report you will see that there is much to celebrate, given improvements in health outcomes for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people since the introduction and expansion of the National Immunisation Program. For example:
- hospitalisation rates for many vaccine preventable diseases have improved
- notification rate disparities with other people have decreased
- vaccine coverage in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people now often surpasses that of other Australians.
However, there are still a lot of challenges faced by all of our mobs.
The ongoing impacts of colonisation mean our people endure social manifestations and heightened risk compared to other Australians, as well as access barriers to health care and preventative health. High vaccination coverage and improving the timeliness of vaccination will undoubtedly maximise the impact of vaccines for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people; however, addressing social determinants of health, such as overcrowding and low socioeconomic status, is the key to optimising the prevention of many diseases outlined in the Vaccination for Our Mob report.