Minister’s commitment to ending hidden disease will help close the gap
END RHD welcomes the commitment of the Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt to prioritise ending rheumatic heart disease in Australia – a disease that disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Minister Wyatt’s commitment came as a result of a roundtable last week in Darwin, attended by representatives from the founding partners of END RHD and focusing on the key strategies to prevent rheumatic heart disease.
Professor Jonathan Carapetis, Director of the Telethon Kids Institute, said Minister Wyatt’s support is pivotal in tackling the disease.
“Indigenous leadership is essential in ensuring the voices of our Aboriginal communities are heard. We congratulate Minister Wyatt for his commitment to prioritise rheumatic heart disease as a tangible opportunity to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait health outcomes,” Professor Carapetis said.
“The most critical element of the strategy is to work with the communities bearing the greatest burden of rheumatic heart disease; to ensure community-led solutions, based on their aspirations and priorities, can be developed and sustained.
“The fact that there was consensus amongst the broad representation, from the community controlled primary health care sector, clinicians, researchers, service providers and government, at the roundtable means we have a real opportunity for concrete action.
“With the leadership Minister Wyatt has demonstrated, as well as the movement driven by the END RHD, I am confident we can end rheumatic heart disease in Australia,” Professor Carapetis said.
END RHD is an alliance of health, research and community organisations seeking to amplify efforts to end RHD in Australia through advocacy and engagement. The founding partners are the Australian Medical Association (AMA), National Heart Foundation of Australia, Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA), National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Menzies School of Health Research, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), and the Telethon Kids Institute (home of the END RHD Centre for Research Excellence).
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.