On International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we draw attention to the health disparity that still exists between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.
The facts about heart disease overall are already sobering. It is the leading cause of death in Australia – and the world – and affects two in every three families.
The view for Indigenous Australians is even more sobering. Compared to non-Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are:
- twice as likely to be affected by cardiovascular disease,
- three times more likely to have a major coronary event, such as a heart attack,
- 10.5 times more likely to die from heart disease, and
- more likely to die from heart disease at a younger age.
Why is there such a disparity?
Research has shown that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have poorer access to health services and medications aimed at preventing and treating cardiac conditions.1
While 90 per cent of Australians have at least one risk factor for heart disease, Indigenous people are more likely to smoke, be obese, or have high blood pressure or diabetes. In 2012–13, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were 2.6 times more likely to smoke daily than non-Indigenous adults, while 69% were overweight or obese.2 In addition, 20% had high blood pressure, with the majority unaware that they had the condition.3
The cardiovascular research that the HRI conducts will benefit all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. However, we also have specific studies that help address the increased heart disease risk that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have. For one, the Heart Rhythm and Stroke Prevention Group is collaborating with the Poche Centre to screen for atrial fibrillation (AF) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote and rural NSW, extending to NT and WA.
Want to know more?
Download information on Heart Disease in Indigenous communities.
1. Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Health Performance Framework Report 2010. Canberra: AHMAC, 2011
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Indigenous Australians. Cat. No. IHW 126. Canberra: AIHW, 2014
3. Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Health Performance Framework 2014 Report. Canberra: AHMAC, 2015