Preventable acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease continue to affect Indigenous communities in Australia, largely due to social disadvantage – but a new program, known as “END RHD CRE” is set to help.
In late 2014, the NHMRC awarded five years’ worth of funding for a centre of Research Excellence in RHD; this program, END RHD CRE, brings together 20 investigators, 16 institutions and a broad range of collaborators to identify the steps and interim targets needed to end RHD in Australia.
The END RHD CRE is set to be launched on May 13 in Sydney.
“The END RDH CRE is the first time that any country has had the opportunity to build a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy for ending RDH,” says Professor Jonathan Carapetis, director of Telethon Kids Institute and Chief Investigator CRE.
“This project represents a tremendous challenge and untold opportunity to tackle the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”
ATSI people are up to eight times more likely than other Australians to be hospitalised for ARF and RHD, and nearly 20 times more likely to die from the disease.
In the Northern Territory in 2010, the prevalence rate of RHD among ATSI people was 26 times the rate for non-Indigenous people.
“Funding for the END RHD CRE will make it possible to amplify world class RHD research already underway in Australia and to understand what is needed to eliminate the disease as a public health priority in this country,” says Prof Carapetis.
The launch coincides with May 11-15 meetings of clinicians and practitioners convened by RHDAustralia to address ARF and RHD in the Australian landscape.
Investigators for END RHD CRE affiliated research projects currently underway in Australia will also meet to discuss collective translation of research outcomes.
Work to understand the determinants of secondary prophylaxis, the genetic risk of RHD and the devastating impact of RDH in pregnancy will be addressed.
Australian work on the coalition to advance new vaccines against group A streptococcus (CANVAS) project underway with New Zealand will also be discussed.
“We understand that ending RHD does not mean it will be eradicated, nor the substantial changes to the burden of disease will occur over the life of this CRE,” says Prof Carapetis.
“Instead, we commit to identifying a set of costed, step-wise interventions which are most likely to reduce the incidence of ARF and the prevalence of RHD to the same level as non-Indigenous Australians.”