Heart health needs to Close the Gap

Aboriginal man and child: close the gap

As the Close the Gap report is tabled in Parliament today, the Heart Foundation’s Leader on Aboriginal Health, Vicki Wade is joining in the call for Government to stay the course and continue to lead the Closing the Gap strategy, in coordination with all state governments.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, accounting for 26% of all deaths.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease in every age group, particularly the younger ages,” says Wade.

“The prevalence of heart attack in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 35-39 years corresponds to that of non-indigenous people of 60-64 years.”

The Heart Foundation says it recognises the challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia,in particular the unacceptable disparities they experience in health, wellbeing and life opportunities.

“We hope to improve the wider communities understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s cultures in order to fully appreciate the profound negative impact that colonisation has had on health,” Wade says.

“We are committed to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and reducing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in cardiovascular disease mortality and morbidity.

Wade says we need to build on successes achieved to date such as driving down smoking rates and being on track to halve the rate of mortality for under-fives by 2018.

“There is still a long way to go until we close the gap on health inequality,” she says.

“That’s why we are joining in the call to urge the Federal Government to focus on greater access to primary health care services to detect, treat and manage chronic health conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Addressing this provides the nation with a real opportunity to make relatively large health and life expectancy gains in relatively short periods of time.”

The Heart Foundation is also echoing the call to implement the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan that provides a significant opportunity to address many of the challenges to closing the health and life expectancy gap by improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander access to appropriate healthcare.

“It must set targets, develop a comprehensive model of services, mapping of the regions to address gaps against this model and aim to improve access to these core services,” Wade says.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with other Australians are:

  • Twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease.
  • 7 times as likely to die from circulatory diseases.
  • 4 times more likely to die out-of-hospital from coronary heart disease.
  • In hospital less likely to be investigated by angiography and receive coronary angioplasty, stenting or coronary bypass surgery.
  • Three times more likely to have a major coronary event such as a heart attack.
  • Two to three times as likely to be hospitalised for coronary heart disease and heart failure.
  • More than two times as likely to die in-hospital from coronary heart disease.
  • 7 times as likely to be hospitalised with acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, with rates varying with age groups.
  • Six to eight times as likely to be hospitalised for acute rheumatic fever and chronic rheumatic disease.
  • More likely to experience adverse outcomes in the two years post discharge.
  • More likely to experience significant barriers to necessary services across the continuum of care.
  • More likely to smoke, have high blood pressure, be obese, have diabetes, drink alcohol at harmful levels, and have end-stage renal disease.

“We want the Federal Government to take a leadership role in this area by continuing to make progress to reduce the inequities in health so that future generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can enjoy the same standards of health as their non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters,” Wade says.

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