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Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia

RHD Resouces

AMA releases 2016 report card on Indigenous health

The AMA has called on all Australian governments and other stakeholders to work together to eradicate rheumatic heart disease (RHD) – an entirely preventable but devastating disease that kills and disables hundreds of Indigenous Australians every year – by 2031.

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said that RHD, which starts out with seemingly innocuous symptoms such as a sore throat or a skin infection, but leads to heart damage, stroke, disability, and premature death, could be eradicated in Australia within 15 years if all governments adopted the recommendations of the latest AMA Indigenous Health Report Card.

The 2016 Report Card - A call to action to prevent new cases of rheumatic heart disease in Indigenous Australia by 2031 - was launched this morning in Darwin.

Dr Gannon said the lack of effective action on RHD to date was a national failure, and an urgent coordinated approach was needed.

He also said “RHD once thrived in inner-city slums, but had been consigned to history for most Australians,” and “RHD is a disease of poverty, and it is preventable, yet it is still devastating lives and killing many people here in Australia – one of the world’s wealthiest countries."

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 ARF or its complications; and
  • 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.

What's required to effect meaningful change?

  •  Improve the overcrowding and unhygienic conditions in which strep A bacterium can thrive and spread
  •  Educate Indigenous community members about strep A bacterial infection, ARF, and RHD
  •  Educate medical practitioners about strep A bacterial infection, ARF, and RHD
  •  Establish and support functional primary health care clinics that are culturally safe, employ culturally competent RHD-informed practitioners and Indigenous health workers, and have models of care that are patient- and family-focused.
  •  Improving access to intramuscular BPG shots
  •  Establishing ARF/RHD patient registers and population ARF/RHD control programs
  •  Ensure that echocardiographic (echo) screening has a role to play in RHD control.

What's needed to implement these measures?

  •  Building on the success of the 2009 Rheumatic Fever Strategy to develop, fully fund, and implement a strategy to end RHD as a public health problem in Australia by 2031
  •  Make ARF/RHD notifiable across Australia and establish a national register
  •  People living with ARF and RHD and their communities must be at the heart of the national effort and campaign
  •  A holistic, multi-sectoral, and multidisciplinary approach
  •  A targeted, cost-effective focus on primordial prevention
  •  Continue funding strep A bacteria vaccine/reformulation of penicillin delivery method development
  •  Additional funding

Article excerpt from AMA Media Release and the 2016 AMA Report Card