Adolescents and young people (aged 10-24 years) make up one third of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. As a time of great discovery, transition and opportunity, adolescence is also a time when health and wellbeing needs and priorities change, new challenges arise and the foundations for future health and wellbeing are set out. Although adolescence is a very important time in life, there is currently no national strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent health and wellbeing.
Existing policies and services focus mostly on children and adults and as a result, investments have been limited and poorly co-ordinated, leaving many young people unable to access the services and support they need or want. The current lack of specific responses may explain why adolescence is where many disparities in health and wellbeing begin to widen between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. Our earlier work has found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have health needs that are significantly unmet. We estimate that a massive 80% of excess mortality experienced by these young people is potentially avoidable within the current health system.
To help address this important gap we are developing the very first National Roadmap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent Health. The Roadmap will describe the priority health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and related strategies and actions to address them. Through the Roadmap we hope to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are healthy, supported and have access to the services they need and want.
We strongly believe that young people must be central to any effort in improving young people’s health and wellbeing. Not only do young people have a fundamental right to be involved in the things that will directly impact them, but they also have perspectives and skills that are important to building a better future.
To ensure this Roadmap carries the voices of young people, its development is governed by a national group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents. This governance group includes young people from across the country and is supported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders (for more see Governance).
There are two main components to developing the Roadmap:
Defining priority health needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people:
We are speaking with young people across the country to understand the things that are important to their health and the health of their communities. We will also look at work that has already been done in this area including consultations with young people and priority groups, population data (including national health and social surveys, along with administrative datasets) and policy priorities and indicators.
Defining evidence-based actions to address priorities needs and gaps:
We will work directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to understand from their perspective, what needs to happen to improve health and wellbeing. We will also work with Indigenous young people and researchers internationally and look at what actions and strategies have already been successful in improving adolescent health.
Key findings from the Roadmap will be presented at national workshops and working with our Governance group and key partners we will develop a plan to support the implementation of our recommended actions. A Roadmap resources package will be developed to communicate our key recommendations to policy makers, organisations and communities.
This resource will define priority areas for action and evidence-based responses to address adolescent health needs. Aligned with the overall priority areas of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, the Roadmap will enable the development of more targeted and responsive policy and services. Importantly, this project will directly work to empower and build the capacity of young people, partners and communities to take leadership around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent health and wellbeing.