The AMA believes that one of the most effective investments that Australia can make to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and life expectancy is to support measures to prevent and protect against adversity and chronic stresses in early life, and promote the conditions for healthy early development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Poor conditions in early life can cause genetic and physiological changes that can be transmitted from one generation to the next, so that children from unhealthy and problematic family circumstances can reproduce those circumstances for their own children, later in life.
The 2012-13 Report Card “The Healthy Early Years – Getting the Right Start in Life” collates the most up to date research and evidence on the factors in the early life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children that determine their later life health outcomes. On the basis of that evidence, the 2012-13 Report Card makes a range of recommendations to Governments to improve health and wellbeing in the early years, in the following areas:
- Development of a comprehensive plan for maternal and child services;
- Support for families at risk;
- Measures to keep children at school;
- Strengthening community capacity;
- Improving the living environment, and
- Ensuring better data, research and evaluation.
There are many examples of where progress is being made in Aboriginal communities, and some examples of these good news stories and best practice can be found here.