Good health is fundamental to a fulfilling life. Health and well being of women requires a specific focus. The National Women's Health Programme focuses on improving services to women who are at a disadvantage - whether economically or because of geographical isolation - or for whom culturally appropriate services need to be delivered.
The Alternative Birthing Services Programme promotes greater choice for women in the public health system and encourages services delivered primarily by midwives. The next phase of the programme will build on models already successfully trialled and evaluated.
Funding is available for this programme for a further two years.

Pilot Study of Alternative Funding for Rural Obstetric Services

Key stakeholders will be involved in developing a pilot study of alternative funding to improve obstetric services in rural areas. A total of $5 million will be available for the project. This funding will be provided by savings from Medicare benefits which will not be available for obstetric services provided in these identified areas for the period of the study.


Women instinctively want to protect their children. In a major push to boost childhood immunisation rates the Government launched a package of measures in February 1997. Immunise Australia: A Seven Point Plan includes: Building on this, the Budget establishes a new funding mechanism for the purchase of essential vaccines and provides in excess of $14 million over four years for Hepatitis B, the first vaccine to be funded under this mechanism.
In addition this year's Budget provides $1.6 million over four years for a school-based programme of Hepatitis B vaccination to protect children before risks related to life-style begin to become a factor.
The measure will involve the Commonwealth working with the States and Territories, the Commonwealth covering the cost of vaccines and contributing up to half the additional cost of delivering Hepatitis B vaccination in schools. States and Territories will be responsible for the delivery of the programme as well as the provision of their half of the additional funding.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

Breastfeeding Strategy

The Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services is developing and implementing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' component of the National Breast Feeding Strategy as part of the Health Throughout Life Maternal Health Policy. The Office has developed a plan to encourage prolonged breastfeeding and the appropriate introduction of additional foods for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants. One strategy is to improve training for Aboriginal Health Workers and other health professionals in promoting and supporting breastfeeding and appropriate infant feeding; the second is to support community controlled health services in developing appropriate care protocols based on identified 'best practice'.
Implementing the first part of the plan, the Office has commissioned an audit of current training in breastfeeding support and infant nutrition for Aboriginal Health Workers and other health professionals providing health care to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women. Depending on the outcomes of this audit, if there is a need, the Office will develop core elements for training modules for Aboriginal Health Workers and advise on appropriate information to be included in training for other health professionals in the promotion and support of breastfeeding and early infant nutrition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
A second project which is currently underway is a review of current interventions and identification of best practice currently used by community based Aboriginal Health Service providers in promoting and supporting breastfeeding and appropriate infant nutrition. The information gathered from this review, and recommendations on successful interventions to encourage breastfeeding and good infant nutrition, will be offered to health services providing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and infants. Funding of $0.4 million is also scheduled to be available in 1997-98 to support the development, trial and evaluation of support and care guidelines.

Sexual Health

The Indigenous Australians' Sexual Health Strategy was launched by the Minister for Health and Family Services, the Hon Michael Wooldridge MP, on 26 March 1997. The Strategy, developed by the Australian National Council on AIDS and Related Diseases Working Party on Indigenous Australians' Sexual Health, is aimed at promoting and maintaining the sexual health of all indigenous Australians. The relationship between reproductive health and sexual health is well recognised, especially in relation to the effects that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, have on the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to have children. Thus, any strategy aimed at improving sexual health will also result in improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in relation to their reproductive and maternal health. The Strategy provides for funding in the order of $12 million over the years 1997-98 and 1998-99.
The Strategy strongly emphasises that one of the crucial factors required for the effective control of STDs and, hence prevention of HIV transmission, is access to high quality primary health care. The Office is progressing a range of initiatives in response to the Sexual Health Strategy that are aimed at strengthening the capacity of the primary health care sector to improve both access to, and the quality of, sexual health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These initiatives, such as facilitating the development of clinical care guidelines and the implementation of computerised patient information and recall systems within Aboriginal Health Services, are population health approaches and will have a positive impact on Indigenous health generally.