Australia has among the highest recorded rates of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in the world, and it is a significant cause of disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in rural or remote settings, particularly across central and northern Australia, are known to be at high risk.
In a recent article in News GP Dr Olivia O’Donoghue, Medical Director Flinders NT Regional Training Hub and Patricia Turner, CEO of NACCHO spoke to Amanda Lyons about the urgent need to tackle high rates of ARF and RHD in Australia.
Dr O’Donoghue who is also the Lead Aboriginal Health Training Medical Educator and Northern Territory Representative on the RACGP’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Council, spoke of the complications arising from ARF and the challenging, complex and painful treatments that are required. Dr O’Donoghue sees the work undertaken by END RHD to create a vaccine against Strep A and its recent funding boost from the Federal Government , as a positive step, although she would also like to see further research into ARF treatment options, as well. Because ARF and RHD have significant links to disadvantage, Dr O’Donoghue believes their elimination will require a focus on the social as well as medical determinants of health – and that this needs to go beyond simple informational campaigns.
Patricia Turner, believes it is imperative to act decisively on Australia’s high rates of ARF and RHD and wants to see practical, hands-on solutions for those who are currently suffering whilst addressing social determinants of health.
You can read the full article ‘This should not be the norm for our people’: Ending rheumatic heart disease in Australia by Amanda Lyons