3000 Indigenous Australians die prematurely each year

Aboriginal man and child: close the gap

Around 3000 Indigenous Australians die prematurely each year, resulting in almost 100,000 years of life lost, according to a report released today by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010 provides estimates of the fatal burden of disease and injury for Indigenous Australians, as well as estimates of the ‘gap’ in fatal burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The report highlighted that cardiovascular disease (21%) contributed the most fatal burden of all diseases.  This was followed by cancer (17%), infant and congenital conditions (10%), gastrointestinal diseases (6%) and endocrine disorders (which includes diabetes) (5%)

National Heart Foundation Cultural Lead, Vicki Wade, says this group of diseases account for 82% of all Indigenous years of lost life in 2010.

“It is unacceptable that my people, my aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters continue to die from cardiovascular disease at greater rates and at younger ages than other Australians,” Wade says.

According to the report the years of lost life rates for injuries and cardiovascular diseases were almost three times as high in the Indigenous population.

“Our communities are forever in mourning for the lives of our young people lost to diseases that can and should be prevented,” Wade says.

National Heart Foundation CEO Mary Barry says cardiovascular disease, particularly coronary heart disease, is a major cause of premature death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, accounting for 21% of all deaths.

“Cardiovascular disease is a major contributor to the gaps in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with recent statistics suggesting that Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women can expect to live 10.6 and 9.5 fewer years, respectively, than other Australians,” she says.

“While the investment in the Close the Gap initiative has seen some improvement in the cardiovascular health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, greater gains need to be made,” Barry says.

Maurice Swanson, National Heart Foundation spokesperson on Tobacco says that use of tobacco remains a major preventable cause of the life expectancy gap.

“Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, tobacco use is the leading preventable risk factor contributing to disease and death.

“The need for a robust, well-funded, and sustained program to drive down the disturbingly high prevalence of smoking among Indigenous Australians is self-evident,” Mr Swanson said.

The Heart Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to implement its recommendations made to the Senate Select Committee on Health inquiry into health policy, administration and expenditure, with particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“By doing so we can significantly improve cardiovascular outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Barry says.

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