National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023

Appendix C: Glossary and Definitions

Page last updated: 27 June 2013

This National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan is underpinned by the following definitions which are threaded through the Health Plan. These are well established and accepted principles that are generic to a number of longstanding national and state Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander planning and policy documents.

Antenatal CareIncludes recording medical history, assessment of individual needs, advice and guidance on pregnancy and delivery, screening tests, education on self-care during pregnancy, identification of conditions detrimental to health
during pregnancy, first-line management and referral if necessary.
Acute Rheumatic Fever Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) is a disease caused by an auto-immune reaction to a bacterial infection with Group A streptococcus. ARF is a short illness, but can result in permanent damage to the heart – rheumatic heart disease (RHD). A person who has had ARF once is susceptible to repeated episodes, which can increase the risk of RHD. Following an initial diagnosis of RHD, patients require long-term treatment, including long-term antibiotic treatment to avoid infections that may damage the heart.
Cardiovascular DiseaseDisease of the circulatory system, namely the heart (cardio) or blood vessels (vascular). Includes heart attack, angina, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Also known as circulatory disease.
Child MortalityThe death of a child before the age of five.
Closing the GapA commitment made by Australian governments in 2008 to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Islander Australians.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to six specific targets and timelines to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. These targets acknowledge the importance of reducing the gap in health outcomes and improving the social determinants of health. They are to:
  • close the life expectancy gap within a generation (by 2031);
  • halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade (by 2018);
  • ensure all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities have access to early childhood education within five years (by 2013);
  • halve the gap for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade (by 2018);
  • halve the gap for Indigenous people aged 20-24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment rates by (2020); and
  • halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade (by 2018).
Cross-sectoral coordinationThe cooperation and collaboration of different areas of government.
DiabetesA chronic condition marked by high level of glucose in the blood. This condition is caused by the inability to produce insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood glucose levels), or the insulin produced becomes less effective, or both. Three main types are Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Evidence-Based PracticeEvidence-based practice entails finding, appraising and using the most current and valid research findings as the basis for decisions.
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum DisorderConditions that may result from foetal exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. Disorders include foetal alcohol syndrome, neurodevelopmental disorder and alcohol-related birth defects. These disorders include antenatal and postnatal growth retardation, specific facial dysmorphology and functional abnormalities of the central nervous system.
Health Literacy An individual’s ability to read, understand and use healthcare information.
Illicit Drugs Illicit drugs include illegal drugs (amphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, hallucinogens), pharmaceuticals when used for non-medical purposes (pain-killers, sleeping pills) and other substances used inappropriately (inhalants such as petrol or glue).
Intergenerational TraumaExposure of an earlier generation to a traumatic event that continues to affect the subsequent generations.
Life ExpectancyThe average number of years of life remaining to a person at a particular age. Life expectancy at birth is an estimate of the average length of time (in years) a person can expect to live, assuming that the currently prevailing rates of death for each age group will remain the same for the lifetime of that person.
Life CourseThe period from birth through to death.
Low Birth WeightInfants born weighing less than 2500g.
Medicare LocalsPrimary health care organisations established as part of the National Health Reform to coordinate primary health care delivery and address local health needs and service gaps. Their purpose is to drive improvements in primary health care and ensure that services are better tailored to meet the needs the needs of local communities.
Palliative CarePalliative care is provided to people of all ages who are going through the end stages of life.
Primary Health CareThe World Health Organization Alma-Ata declaration of 1978 defines primary health care as essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination. It forms an integral part both of the country’s health system, of which it is the central function and main focus, and of the overall social and economic development of the community. It is the first level of contact of individuals, the family and community with the national health system bringing health care as close as possible to where people live and work, and constitutes the first element of a continuing health care process.
Respiratory DiseaseRespiratory disease includes conditions affecting the respiratory system – which includes the lungs and airways – such as asthma and pneumonia.
Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD)RHD may develop after illness with rheumatic fever, usually during childhood. Rheumatic fever can cause damage to various structures of the heart including the valves, lining or muscle and this damage is known as RHD (see also acute rheumatic fever).
Risk FactorsThe factors that are associated with ill health, disability, disease or death are known as risk factors. Risk factors may be behavioural, biomedical, environmental, genetic, or demographic. Risk factors often coexist and interact with one another.
Secondary Health CareSecondary health care refers to particular services provided by hospitals, such as acute care, as well as services provided by specialists.
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)An infection that can be transferred from one person to another through sexual contact.
Social Determinants of HealthThe conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.
Strengths based approachA strengths-based approach views situations realistically and looks for opportunities to complement and support existing strengths and capacities as opposed to a deficit-based approach which focuses on the problem or concern.
Systemic Racism Failure of the health system to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin.
Tertiary Health CareTertiary health care refers to highly specialised or complex services provided by specialists or allied health professional in a hospital or primary health care setting, such as cancer treatment and complex surgery.
TrachomaTrachoma is an eye infection that can result in scarring, in-turned eyelashes and blindness. Australia is the only developed country where trachoma is still endemic and it is found almost exclusively in remote and very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Trachoma is associated with living in an arid environment (including the impact of dust); lack of access to clean water for hand and face washing; overcrowding and low socioeconomic status.
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