The closing the gap health and health related-programs have continued to be rolled out in the past year and have the potential to make significant headway in relation to smoking cessation, infant health and chronic disease. But over 3 years after the programs were announced, we are not yet in a position to accurately assess if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy is increasing in absolute terms, let alone whether the all-important relative gains are being made to close the 10 to 11 year gap with the non-Indigenous population.
There are mixed signals in the data. If current trends continue, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander under-5 mortality rates may fall within the range of the COAG Closing the Gap Target by 2018. However, much more progress needs to be made on reducing the number and proportion of low birth weight babies. While over the past two decades mortality data indicates the life expectancy gap may have narrowed, it is of concern that progress has slowed from 2001 onwards.