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Commentary

Improving access to medicines in urban, regional and rural Aboriginal communities – is expansion of Section 100 the answer?

Submitted: 19 February 2007
Revised: 29 May 2007
Published: 22 June 2007

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Author(s) : Stoneman J, Taylor SJ.

Jennifer StonemanSusan Taylor

Citation: Stoneman J, Taylor SJ.  Improving access to medicines in urban, regional and rural Aboriginal communities – is expansion of Section 100 the answer? Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2007; 7: 738. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=738 (Accessed 17 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

The poor health of Indigenous Australians is highlighted by the fact that their life expectancy is 17 years less than that of non-Indigenous Australians. The cause of this health disparity is multifactorial, and includes the under use of health services and medications. Distance, cost, and embarrassment, or fear of seeking help from culturally inappropriate services have all contributed to the reduced health status of Indigenous Australians. The introduction of Aboriginal medical services (AMS), Aboriginal health workers, and Section 100 (S100) of the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) have been important steps towards improving Aboriginal access to health services and medications. Despite this, spending on pharmaceuticals under the PBS per capita among the Indigenous population remains significantly lower than that of the non-Indigenous population. Because Aboriginal people from all areas experience similar barriers in their access to medicines, it has been suggested that the S100 scheme be made available to all AMS. Ensuring quality use of medicines needs to be addressed because patient counselling is carried out by the clinic staff, rather than the pharmacist and, therefore, in this case the pharmacist’s role converts to one of training and providing information to the AMS. This expansion of S100 services may lead Indigenous health down a path of separation from mainstream services, which in turn would require nearly no adjustment by pharmacies and pharmacists to meet the needs of Indigenous people. Unfortunately, for no known reasons, previous suggestions to improve Aboriginal people’s utilisation of mainstream health services and pharmacies have not been actioned.

Key words: Aboriginal, Aboriginal health workers, Aboriginal medical services, Australia, medications, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

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