Funding commitment to begin the end of rheumatic heart disease

Apr 18, 2019 | Media Release

END RHD welcomes the announcement by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten that the Australian Labor Party will commit 33 million dollars to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to tackle rheumatic heart disease if elected.

This new funding provides a foundation for comprehensive, community-based approach to stop people developing rheumatic heart disease. With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership this investment can begin to turn the tide on the preventable tragedy of rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

More than ten thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are projected to develop RHD or its precursor acute rheumatic fever by 2028. Some of those new cases will be prevented with the commitments made today.

Ms Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Co-Chair of END RHD says “This funding is a great start. We know that supporting communities to lead the way on RHD is the way forward.”


“We also know how important sustained funding is for programs to have long term impact and that guaranteeing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership is critical for success. The experience of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector has clearly demonstrated this.”

END RHD’s Election Proposal released last week called on all parties to commit funding to communities, jurisdictions and nationally to provide a foundation for an enduring approach to RHD. This must to include support for comprehensive primary health care, investment in workforce and environmental health. Collaboration within and between governments is needed to address the social determinants of health which drive this disease.

Professor Jonathan Carapetis, Director of the Telethon Kids Institute and Co-Chair of END RHD says “We are delighted that this funding commitment will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to tackle rheumatic heart disease.

“END RHD looks forward to working with Government, communities and supporting organisations as we move towards ending rheumatic heart disease together.”

MEDIA Contact

Tammy Gibbs

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M: 0408 946 698

About rheumatic heart disease

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to a streptococcal A infection. Susceptible people develop acute rheumatic fever (ARF) after untreated Strep A sore throats, and possibly skin sores. Recurrent episodes of ARF cause permanent damage to heart valves, leading to heart failure, heart rhythm abnormalities and stroke, and all too often death or severe disability in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.

  • There are more than 250 cases of acute rheumatic fever each year in Australia. Young people aged 5 – 15 years are at highest risk of first episode of ARF.
  • 50-150 people die each year from RHD. Young Aboriginal Australians are 55 times more likely to die of RHD than their non-Indigenous peers. The average age of death from RHD in Aboriginal people is 40 years.