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Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia

RHD Resouces

Media Release - Sharing a Heartbeat

Sharing a Heartbeat: a short film about teen pregnancy and rheumatic heart disease

FILM LAUNCH | Friday 29 September 2017 | 6:00 – 7:30pm | Bagot Community

 “Remember, the mother shares the heartbeat with the baby”

“Sharing a heartbeat” is a short film on rheumatic heart disease (RHD), teen pregnancy, and birth control. Set in Darwin, this film gives insight into the lives of young Aboriginal couples in love and features first time actors who are sharing stories which their communities know too well.

This short film was written and directed in part by 21-year-old Kenya McAdam, a Jaru and Kira woman from Halls Creek, WA currently living in Katherine, NT. Kenya developed RHD at 15 years old. The damage to her heart so severe it required open heart surgery within 3 months of diagnosis. Since that time, Kenya has worked with RHDAustralia to raise awareness about this 100% preventable disease.

"I chose to help create this film because I wanted to help young women living with RHD and make sure they can access information about contraception, pregnancy and planning for a baby. The film points out the main needs of a young woman living with RHD to help care for herself, her heart and her baby. The film re-assures young women with RHD that they can have a normal healthy pregnancy; they just need to take extra care of themselves. The film has answered my unanswered questions, and I think it will help young women living with RHD understand more about approaching pregnancy."  Kenya McAdam said.

Kenya was assisted by Associate Professor Suzanne Belton, a medical anthropologist and midwife who produced and worked alongside Kenya in the making of this short film. Associate Professor Belton’s most recent research focused on the pregnancy journeys of eight Indigenous women with RHD from different parts of the Northern Territory, who have different parities, different levels RHD, and different social backgrounds.

“Recent research has demonstrated that young women were over represented among patients with any form of RHD. There were no resources available for young women about fertility and pregnancy. As most young women with RHD would like to be mums one day this was an important information gap I wanted to address. This film provides young women, their partners and families with health information in a way that makes sense to them.” Assoc Prof Suzanne Belton said.

Facts on rheumatic heart disease and its precurser acute rheumatic fever
Rheumatic heart disease is up to twice as common in women, and tends to affect women during their child bearing years. There is a 30-50% increased cardiac workload in normal pregnancy. Young Indigenous Australians, such as Kenya, are up to 122 times more likely to contract the disease than non-Indigenous youngsters. Young people aged 5 – 14 years are at highest risk. Almost all cases of rheumatic fever recorded in the NT between 2005 and 2010 were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (98%). It is deemed an entirely preventable disease of poverty.

RHD is damage to one or more heart valves that remains after an episode of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is resolved. It is caused by an episode or recurrent episodes of ARF, where the heart has become inflamed. The heart valves can remain stretched and/or scarred, and normal blood flow through damaged valves is interrupted. ARF is an illness caused by an autoimmune response to a bacterial infection with group A streptococcus (GAS), commonly called the strep bacteria. Infection with GAS can cause many illnesses, including sore throat (strep throat) and skin sores.                                                                                                                                                                               

Increasing knowledge of rheumatic heart disease in the community
RHDAustralia is the National Coordination Unit supporting the control of rheumatic heart disease in Australia. Funded under the Australian Government’s Rheumatic Fever Strategy, RHDAustralia is based at Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin. Building on research by the Australasian Maternity Outcomes Surveillance System and Menzies School of Health Research, RHDAustralia has produced a short film to increase awareness about this disease in pregnancy.  This is culturally appropriate health information for a target audience of girls and young women from ages 13 to 20s who have mild to moderate RHD. The content of the film revolves around relationships and family, pregnancy choices and contraception while dealing with a chronic health condition.

RHDAustralia Contact
Sean Rung | Communications Officer, RHDAustralia T: 08 8946 8655 M:045 0701 003 |