Close the gap: Indigenous heart health

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) this month. 

CHD –– also known as Ischaemic Heart Disease and Coronary Artery Disease –– includes angina, blocked arteries of the heart and heart attacks.The rate of death from CHD among our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations is almost twice in non-Indigenous people (131.4 per 100,000 people, compared to 75.9 per 100,000).

On the eve of National Close the Gap Day, 17 March 2015, we shine a spotlight on the health disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

  • Deaths caused by diseases of the circulatory system (including both ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease) account for nearly a quarter (23%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths. (ABS)
  • The age-standardised death rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians from cerebrovascular disease (which includes haemorrhages, strokes, infarctions and blocked arteries of the brain) is 1.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians (55.2 deaths per 100,000 compared with 41.2 deaths per 100,000). (ABS)*
  • Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people are also more likely to die from cardiovascular disease at a younger age than non-Indigenous people.
  • Today, thousands of indigenous Australian children are at risk of contracting Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) from a common sore throat (Strep Throat) or from the transmission of Strep A bacterium through infectious skin sore (Scabies). ARF, which is 100% preventable, can lead to open heart surgery, heart failure stroke and premature death. (Moonshine)


What can you do?

The aim of Close the Gap Day is to bring people together, to share information — and most importantly — to take meaningful action in support of achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030.

What are your plans to help spread the word?

Take Heart

A new documentary directed by Mike Hill and narrated by Stan Grant, aims to lift the lid on Rheumatic Heart Disease, and highlights the gap in health services between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Take Heart follows the stories of four Indigenous Australians - Brooklyn (7), Trenton (8), Carlissa (16) and Liddywoo (17) - over two years, accompanying them through harrowing open-heart surgery, long-term hospital stays, and the reality of daily life with RHD. With the four young people hailing from remote communities in the Northern Territory, the film also examines the complexities involved in balancing traditional lifestyles with the demands of the modern medical system.

* The ABS figures reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths recorded in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory in 2014. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory were excluded due to issues with Indigenous identification.

Want to know more?

HRI has prepared this FREE information pack on Heart Disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Download today

- Martha Tattersall


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