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Aboriginality, poverty and health - exploring the connections


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Walter, MM 2007 , 'Aboriginality, poverty and health - exploring the connections', paper presented at the Social Determinants of Aboriginal Health Workshop, 4 July, Adelaide.

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In the broader context, poverty and poor health are incontrovertibly linked. The research evidence of inequality of health between the poor and the non-poor is overwhelming. Moreover, this pattern equally applies in affluent countries such as Australia, where a clear and widening health gap exists between low and higher income groups (Mathers 1994; Walker 2000). Within these data, the disparity between Aboriginal1 and non-Aboriginal Australia, in both health and income status, is also long established (Saggers & Gray 1991; ABS 2003). Using a social determinants of health approach, we might rationally conjecture that poverty is a core explanation for Aboriginal ill health.
The elemental role of social–structural determinants in population health is neatly summarised into ten core factors by Wilkinson and Marmot (2003). These are: the social gradient; stress; early life; social exclusion; work; unemployment; social support; addiction; food; and transport. A correlation is easily detected between each determinant and the relative position of Aboriginal people in Australia’s socio-economic hierarchy. From the lowly position of the vast majority of Australian Aborigines on the social gradient the applicability of the social determinants of health to Aboriginal Australia appears obvious. These include the psychosocial stress inherent in Aboriginal people’s lives; the low birth weights, poor maternal health and heavy burden of disease experienced by Aboriginal children; the historical and ongoing exclusion of Aboriginal people from social institutions and access to social resources; the high rates of unemployment and relegation of most Aboriginal workers to low-level, insecure market work; the high levels of addiction present in many Aboriginal communities; the inability of many Aboriginal communities and families to consistently access good food; and the limited transport options available to a majority of Aboriginal people.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Authors/Creators:Walter, MM
Additional Information:

© 2007 CRC for Aboriginal Health and the Author. Originally published in:

Beyond Bandaids: Exploring the Underlying Social Determinants of Aboriginal Health. Papers from the Social Determinants of Aboriginal Health Workshop, Adelaide, July 2004. Edited by Ian Anderson, Fran Baum and Michael Bentley, 2007.

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