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Rheumatic Heart Disease Control Programs

The World Health Organization recommends a coordinated, public health approach where there are substantial populations with acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD).1

In Australia, RHD Control Programs are based in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales. The New South Wales program is supported by the New South Wales State Government, and all other programs are funded under the Federal Government’s Rheumatic Fever Strategy. The programs have independently established priorities for action based on the local burden of disease and specific populations at risk.2

Commonly, RHD control programs in Australia:3,4

  • are supported by local program advisory committees that include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service organisations and members from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce, medical specialists, general practitioners, epidemiologists, nurses, public health practitioners, and relevant community representatives.
  • identify people with, or at risk of, ARF and RHD.
  • maintain dedicated, state-wide ARF/RHD register and recall systems to help coordinate care.
  • promote environmental health and primary antibiotic prevention, which focus on preventing ARF.
  • support delivery of secondary antibiotic prophylaxis to minimise recurrent ARF and prevent RHD, delivered within the framework of primary healthcare.
  • support clinical and public health practice by increasing disease awareness and expertise among the health workforce.
  • provide information, education, and self-management support to people with ARF and RHD and their families, and the community.
  • use information from the ARF/RHD registers to monitor patient health outcomes and produce epidemiological reports to help improve control program activities.
  • contribute to the national epidemiological reporting of ARF and RHD.

ARF and RHD are notifiable conditions in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales.

Northern Territory

  • 1. World Health Organization. Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease: report of a WHO expert consultation, Geneva, 29 October–1 November 2001. WHO technical report series 923, 2004. View Source
  • 2. Katzenellenbogen JM, Bond-Smith D, Seth RJ et al. The End Rheumatic Heart Disease in Australia Study of Epidemiology (ERASE) Project: data sources, case ascertainment and cohort profile. Clinical Epidemiology. 2019;11:997-1010. View Source
  • 3. Federal Financial Relations. Rheumatic Fever Strategy. National Partnership Agreement on specified projects. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2018. View Source
  • 4. RHDAustralia (ARF/RHD writing group). The 2020 Australian guideline for prevention, diagnosis and management of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (3rd edition). 2020. View Source
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Last updated 
15 December 2022