- On January 30, 2017
- Jan/Feb2017, NSW Doctor
Targeting Rheumatic Heart Disease
Federal AMA’s Report Card on Indigenous Health aims to completely eliminate RHD by 2031.
AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon called on governments to rid Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at the launch of the AMA’s Report Card on Indigenous Health.
The Report Card, which has been published annually by the AMA since 2002, reveals that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to face some of the worst health outcomes in Australia.
It also identifies a major health problem – RHD, which is an entirely preventable and debilitating condition – and calls on Australian governments to eliminate this disease within a finite timeline.
“From 2010 to 2013, over 700 new or recurrent cases of Rheumatic Heart Disease were reported in Australia, with 94% of cases being among Indigenous people,” Dr Gannon said.
More than half of these cases were among children aged 5 to 14 years. According to Dr Gannon, the fact that RHD still occurs in Australia is a national shame. It is a disease of poverty caused by Acute Rheumatic Fever. In a first-world country such as Australia, this preventable disease has all but been eliminated in the non-Indigenous Australian population; however, it persists within many rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Indigenous people are 20 times more likely to die from RHD than non-Indigenous people, In the Northern Territory, this rate rises to 55 times higher.
“It is remembered as being a disease of last century – a time before better living conditions and access to health services, and a time before penicillin was introduced.
“But, today, for many Indigenous Australians, Rheumatic Heart Disease continues to be a reality,” Dr Gannon said in his speech.
“These high rates speak volumes about the fundamental underlying causes of Rheumatic Heart Disease, particularly in remote areas. We are talking about poverty, poor-quality and overcrowded housing, lack of education, and inadequate primary healthcare.
“We know the conditions that give rise to Rheumatic Heart Disease. And, we know how to address it – this knowledge has been around for many decades. Yet, we have not been able to rid Australia of this serious disease.
“The Closing the Gap measures are an important step forward in some ways in housing, education, and health funding.”
- The AMA Report Card on Indigenous Health 2016 calls on Australian governments to:
- Commit to a target to prevent new cases of RHD among Indigenous Australians by 2031, with a sub-target that, by 2025, no child in Australia dies of Acute Rheumatic Fever or its complications;
- Work in partnership with Indigenous health bodies, experts, and key stakeholders to develop, fully fund, and implement a strategy to end RHD as a public health problem in Australia by 2031.
AMA is one of the foundation partners in the new END Rheumatic Heart Disease Coalition. Together with the END Rheumatic Heart Disease Centre for Research Excellence, the Heart Foundation, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and RHD Australia, the AMA commits to work to eliminate the scourge of RHD from this country.