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1.  Better health outcomes at lower costs: the benefits of primary care utilisation for chronic disease management in remote Indigenous communities in Australia’s Northern Territory 
Background
Indigenous residents living in remote communities in Australia’s Northern Territory experience higher rates of preventable chronic disease and have poorer access to appropriate health services compared to other Australians. This study compared health outcomes and costs at different levels of primary care utilisation to determine if primary care represents an efficient use of resources for Indigenous patients with common chronic diseases namely hypertension, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and renal disease.
Methods
This was an historical cohort study involving a total of 14,184 Indigenous residents, aged 15 years and over, who lived in remote communities and used a remote clinic or public hospital from 2002 to 2011. Individual level demographic and clinical data were drawn from primary care and hospital care information systems using a unique patient identifier. A propensity score was used to improve comparability between high, medium and low primary care utilisation groups. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios and acceptability curves were used to analyse four health outcome measures: total and, avoidable hospital admissions, deaths and years of life lost.
Results
Compared to the low utilisation group, medium and high levels of primary care utilisation were associated with decreases in total and avoidable hospitalisations, deaths and years of life lost. Higher levels of primary care utilisation for renal disease reduced avoidable hospitalisations by 82-85%, deaths 72-75%, and years of life lost 78-81%. For patients with ischaemic heart disease, the reduction in avoidable hospitalisations was 63-78%, deaths 63-66% and years of life lost 69-73%. In terms of cost-effectiveness, primary care for renal disease and diabetes ranked as more cost-effective, followed by hypertension and ischaemic heart disease. Primary care for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was the least cost-effective of the five conditions.
Conclusion
Primary care in remote Indigenous communities was shown to be associated with cost-savings to public hospitals and health benefits to individual patients. Investing $1 in primary care in remote Indigenous communities could save $3.95-$11.75 in hospital costs, in addition to health benefits for individual patients. These findings may have wider applicability in strengthening primary care in the face of high chronic disease prevalence globally.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-463
PMCID: PMC4282496  PMID: 25281064
Indigenous; Northern Territory; Australia; Remote; Chronic disease; Primary care; Cost effectiveness; Hospitalisation; Mortality; YLL
2.  Health inequity in the Northern Territory, Australia 
Introduction
Understanding health inequity is necessary for addressing the disparities in health outcomes in many populations, including the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This report investigates the links between Indigenous health outcomes and socioeconomic disadvantage in the Northern Territory of Australia (NT).
Methods
Data sources include deaths, public hospital admissions between 2005 and 2007, and Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas from the 2006 Census. Age-sex standardisation, standardised rate ratio, concentration index and Poisson regression model are used for statistical analysis.
Results
There was a strong inverse association between socioeconomic status (SES) and both mortality and morbidity rates. Mortality and morbidity rates in the low SES group were approximately twice those in the medium SES group, which were, in turn, 50% higher than those in the high SES group. The gradient was present for most disease categories for both deaths and hospital admissions. Residents in remote and very remote areas experienced higher mortality and hospital morbidity than non-remote areas. Approximately 25-30% of the NT Indigenous health disparity may be explained by socioeconomic disadvantage.
Conclusions
Socioeconomic disadvantage is a shared common denominator for the main causes of deaths and principal diagnoses of hospitalisations for the NT population. Closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations will require improving the socioeconomic conditions of Indigenous Australians.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-79
PMCID: PMC3847185  PMID: 24034417
Indigenous health services; Morbidity; Mortality; Poverty; Socioeconomic factors
3.  Trend analysis of hospital admissions attributable to tobacco smoking, Northern Territory Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations, 1998 to 2009 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:545.
Background
Tobacco smoking is a well-recognised risk factor for many diseases [1]. This study assesses the extent of smoking-attributable hospitalisation in the Northern Territory (NT) Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations, and examines smoking-attributable hospitalisation trends for the years 1998/99 to 2008/09.
Methods
Hospital discharge data were used for the analysis. The proportion of conditions attributable to tobacco smoking was calculated using the aetiological fraction method. Age-adjusted smoking-attributable hospitalisation rates were calculated to describe the impact of tobacco smoking on the health of Territorians. A negative binominal regression model was applied to examine trends in smoking-attributable hospitalisations.
Results
Aboriginal Territorians were found to have higher rates of smoking-attributable hospitalisation, with Aboriginal males more than three times and Aboriginal females more than four times more likely to be hospitalised for smoking-attributable conditions than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. The age-adjusted hospitalisation rate for Aboriginal males increased by 31% and for Aboriginal females by 18% during the study period. There were more modest increases for NT non-Aboriginal males and females (5% and 17% respectively). The increase among Aboriginal males occurred up until 2005/06 followed by moderation in the trend. There were small reductions in smoking-attributable hospitalisation rates among all populations in younger age groups (less than 25 years).
Conclusions
Aboriginal Territorians experience much higher smoking-attributable hospitalisation rates than non-Aboriginal Territorians. The scale of the smoking burden and suggestion of recent moderation among Aboriginal men reinforce the importance of tobacco control interventions that are designed to meet the needs of the NT’s diverse population groups. Preventing smoking and increasing smoking cessation rates remain priorities for public health interventions in the NT.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-545
PMCID: PMC3447727  PMID: 22828156
Tobacco; Smoking; Attributable; Hospital admission; Condition; Aboriginal; Trend
4.  A multilevel analysis on the relationship between neighbourhood poverty and public hospital utilization: is the high Indigenous morbidity avoidable? 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:737.
Background
The estimated life expectancy at birth for Indigenous Australians is 10-11 years less than the general Australian population. The mean family income for Indigenous people is also significantly lower than for non-Indigenous people. In this paper we examine poverty or socioeconomic disadvantage as an explanation for the Indigenous health gap in hospital morbidity in Australia.
Methods
We utilised a cross-sectional and ecological design using the Northern Territory public hospitalisation data from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2008 and socio-economic indexes for areas (SEIFA) from the 2006 census. Multilevel logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratios and confidence intervals. Both total and potentially avoidable hospitalisations were investigated.
Results
This study indicated that lifting SEIFA scores for family income and education/occupation by two quintile categories for low socio-economic Indigenous groups was sufficient to overcome the excess hospital utilisation among the Indigenous population compared with the non-Indigenous population. The results support a reframing of the Indigenous health gap as being a consequence of poverty and not simplistically of ethnicity.
Conclusions
Socio-economic disadvantage is a likely explanation for a substantial proportion of the hospital morbidity gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. Efforts to improve Indigenous health outcomes should recognise poverty as an underlying determinant of the health gap.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-737
PMCID: PMC3203263  PMID: 21951514

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