The Link Between Primary Health Care and Health Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians


This review explores the evidence both domestically and internationally as to whether access to high quality primary health care is essential to enhancing Indigenous health status.

Page last updated: June 2008

We would argue that the fact that the evidence in Australia linking life expectancy and mortality improvements to primary health care is suggestive, rather than direct as we see overseas, is not because of the failure of primary health care to make a difference.

Despite the lack of this direct evidence, many studies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health have concluded that primary health care is having an effect. This is borne out by the everyday experience of Indigenous people, concerned with their own and their family’s health rather than the reflection of that health in statistics at the national or jurisdictional level.

At the local level, primary health services and programs may be having important effects on the health of the communities they serve, even if (for the reasons outlined above) these may not yet be directly attributable and measurable in terms improvements in life expectancy at a national or jurisdictional level.

It is to this local level evidence that we turn in the next Chapter.