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Gap in indigenous health costs in remote Australia widens

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Spending on a range of health services in remote areas is more than $2.40 per person for indigenous Australians for every $1 spent on non-indigenous people, according to a report to be issued today by the Australians Institute of Health and Welfare.

The gap was even higher than the $1.39 to $1 indigenous to non-indigenous health expenditure per person national ratio for health services.

In the most remote areas, $2.77 was spent per indigenous Australian for every $1 spent on non-indigenous Australians.

Institute spokesman Nigel Harding said higher per person health spending on indigenous Australians was not surprising given their overall poorer health.

''Special circumstances also apply in remote areas the drive those spending differences higher, such as the overall higher costs of delivering any services at all in remote areas,'' he said.

''The two main drivers for the extra expenditure on indigenous Australians in remote areas are the two major service deliver points used by indigenous Australians in those areas - Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and public hospitals.''

The report showed that in 2008-09, indigenous people were most likely to be hospitalised for genitourinary diseases such as kidney disease, followed by maternal conditions, unintentional injuries and mental and behavioural disorders.

Non-indigenous people were most likely to be hospitalised for diseases of the digestive system, heart disease and maternal conditions.

The report also showed that indigenous Australians were more likely to be admitted to hospital for potentially preventable problems than other Australians.

''The most frequent potentially preventable hospitalisations for both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians were were for diabetes complications,'' the report said. ''The rate of hospitalisation for diabetes complications among indigenous Australians [8.5 per 1000], however, was over twice the rate for non-indigenous Australians.''

Convulsions and epilepsy, dental conditions and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease while the the next most common potentially preventable reasons for hospitalisation for indigenous people.

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