Australian govt urged to address health gaps before next pandemic

Canberra, Jan 3 (IANS) Disadvantaged Australians were six times more likely to die from Covid-19 at the peak of the pandemic than the country's most advantaged people, researchers revealed on Wednesday.

In its submission to the federal government's Covid-19 Response Inquiry, local independent public policy think tank the Grattan Institute said that people from poorer backgrounds, those from regional and remote areas and Indigenous Australians fell behind in every area during the pandemic, reports Xinhua news agency.

Researchers Peter Breadon and Anika Stobart wrote in the submission that early in 2021 people from the most disadvantaged portion of the Australian population were six times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the most advantaged population group.

They said that the federal government must urgently address the health gaps before Australia faces another pandemic or face an increased risk of the health system becoming overwhelmed.

"The disparities in infection rates will probably have long-lasting effects, with some people suffering from the consequences of the pandemic, such as long Covid, for years to come," Breadon and Stobart wrote.

"If we wait for the next pandemic, it will be too late to ensure fair outcomes. Australia must build a strong and equitable health system now, and have systems ready to go when the next crisis comes."

In addition to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the researchers also found that Australians who were born overseas also had higher rates of death and lower vaccination rates than the general population, with the disparity highest among those from Middle Eastern and southeastern European backgrounds.

The federal inquiry was established in September 2023.

Submissions close later in January and it will hand down its findings by the end of September 2024.



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