DISTURBING burden of disease figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on the health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples identified that Indigenous Australians experience a burden of disease that is 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.
This heavy toll of chronic disease, which is responsible for 70% of the gap in disease burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, highlights the need for an increased focus on cardiovascular disease prevention and care for Indigenous Australians across the country.
Heart Foundation Spokesperson for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heart Health Simon Dixon said many barriers exist in regard to service access and delivery of best practice care, with more than one in four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples having problems accessing health services.
“For historical, geographical and cultural reasons, healthcare services remain under-utilised by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Mr Dixon said.
“As a result, poorer health and lower quality of life become the `norm’ until a critical event like a heart attack happens, which, unfortunately, is too late for many.
“It has been estimated that if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples achieved the same level of cardiovascular health as non-Indigenous Australians, this mortality gap could be closed by 6.5 years.
“Poorer social and economic conditions contribute to higher rates of smoking, hypertension and obesity for Aboriginal Torres and Strait Islander peoples but as well, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have increased rates of preventable hospitalisation, delayed hospital presentation, reduced in-hospital intervention and early discharge against medical advice.”
He added that with all these factors, the Heart Foundation was proactive in closing the gap.
“We’re working to support, grow and increase the capability and capacity of primary care, including Aboriginal Health Services,” he said.
“Aboriginal Health Practitioners are a crucial component to providing cardiac care services that are culturally appropriate and we’re working to increase awareness of the importance of their role.
“As well it is essential to implement a national education program to encourage primary care providers to participate in the Practice Incentive Program (PIP) and to register patients for the Indigenous Health Incentive (IHI).
“Disturbingly, less than 5% of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples attend cardiac rehabilitation programs and subsequently have twice the risk of admission or death within the first two years of a heart attack.
“As a leader in the Australian community and as a signatory to the Close the Gap campaign, the Heart Foundation is committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to address the appalling disparity in health outcomes experienced by our first Australians.”
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.