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The social determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers

The social determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothersAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, referred to as Indigenous Australians, experience significantly poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians. This is particularly true for Indigenous women.The difference in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women is some 9.5 years, and Indigenous mothers are three times as likely as non-Indigenous mothers to die during childbirth (AIHW, 2014a; AIHW, 2014b).There are many complex, interrelated social factors which impact the health of Indigenous people. This paper provides a critical analysis of the social determinants of health for Indigenous mothers in particular.Education is one of the most fundamental social determinants of health, and this is particularly true for Indigenous Australians. Education enables Indigenous women to access and interpret health-related information to prevent ill health, and it also improves their capacity to engage effectively with the health care system when necessary (Jones et al., 2014).In Indigenous women, higher levels of education are directly linked with positive health outcomes; for example, an Indigenous woman is less likely to smoke if she completes secondary schooling (Australian Government Department of Health & Ageing, 2012; BiIDle & Cameron, 2012). However, Indigenous women have poor rates of formal education attainment; just 29% of Indigenous people complete Year 12 compared with a national average of 73% (ABS, 2012).Indigenous women with a lower standard of education are more likely to bear a child in their adolescent years, a particular problem for Indigenous women generally, and are also more likely to have a child with a low birthweight (Comino et al., 2009; Osborne et al., 2013).AIDitionally, Indigenous mothers with lower standards of education are more likely to children with poor educational outcomes; this highlights the significant problems associated with the intergenerational transfer of health and social risk in Indigenous communitiesEducation is related directly to an Indigenous womans level of economic participation specifically, her ability to gain employment and earn an adequate income, both of which are key predictors of health (Osborne et al., 2013). Research suggests that an Indigenous persons chance of gaining employment increases by 40% if they complete Year 10 and by 53% if they complete Year 12 (New South Wales Government Department of Education & Training, 2004).However, as with low education, low employment is a significant problem for Indigenous women; indeed, rates of unemployment for Indigenous women are above 16%, compared with a national average of just 4% (ABS, 2013). Economic disadvantage resulting from unemployment is a significant predictor of poor health. Booth and Carrol (2008) suggest that economic variables can explain up to 50% of the disparity in health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.AIDitionally, and demonstrating the cyclical nature of socioeconomic disadvantage and poor health in Indigenous communities, research also suggests that poor health may explain 60% of the disparity in employment participation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women (Kalb et al., 2011).Unemployment and socioeconomic disadvantage may affect the health of Indigenous women in a range of ways. Primarily, limited disposable income in combination with a lack of food storage and cooking facilities within households and, particularly within remote communities, lack of access to fresh food itself means indigenous wome

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