Introduction: Aboriginal Australians have significantly higher prevalence of chronic diseases compared to non-Aboriginal Australians which may partially be due to barriers in accessing primary health care and preventive care. The aim of this study was to examine differences in preventive care and health care access among middle to older aged Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults from the 45 and Up Study.
Methods: Cross-sectional data came from 314 Aboriginal and 59,175 non-Aboriginal participants from a sub-study of the 45 & Up study (The Social, Economic and Environmental Factors [SEEF] study). Odds ratios (OR) adjusted for age, sex and geographic location were estimated for Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal participants.
Results: Aboriginal participants had a lower odds of getting a same-day urgent GP appointment (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.5-0.8), a higher odds of travelling >1 hour to the nearest hospital (2.1, 1.1-3.8) and GP (1.9, 1.2-3.0) and were less confident in their ability to manage their health (0.7, 0.6-0.9) than non-Aboriginal people. Due to shortage of money, Aboriginal participants had a higher odds of not collecting a prescription medicine (5.3, 3.8-7.5), not getting a medical test/treatment (3.9, 2.7-5.5) and limiting fruit/vegetable consumption (3.7, 2.6-5.1) compared to non-Aboriginal participants. Overall, 8.9% of Aboriginal participants and 2.8% of non-Aboriginal participants were smokers who had not received smoking cessation advice from their GPs in the previous 12 months. Among those who were overweight or obese, Aboriginal participants had a higher odds of being advised to increase their physical activity (1.8, 1.3-2.3) and eat less high fat/cholesterol food (1.7, 1.3-2.2) than non-Aboriginal participants.
Conclusions: There are important differences in health care access between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people that need to be considered when devising health policy. Compared to non-Aboriginal participants Aboriginal participants have greater financial constraints in accessing health care. More effort is required from GPs to advise Aboriginal people to quit smoking.