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Take heart: Building evidence to support the cardiovascular health of Indigenous Australians

Associate Professor Judith Katzenellenbogen, Institution: University of Western Australia

2018 Future Leader Fellowship

Years funded: 2019-2023


Improved cardiovascular health can make a critical contribution to reducing the difference in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Focussing on 3 priority cardiovascular diseases (CVD) impacting on Indigenous Australians - rheumatic heart disease (RHD), coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke – this research will address the following questions: How can we best harness existing data to provide CVD information that can be compared across the nation?   How do RHD, CHD and stroke disparities manifest? Are they changing? Are there approaches that work to improve CVD outcomes for Indigenous Australians?

The RHD study uses linked administrative data, economic and health system information from 5 jurisdictions to determine the occurrence rates, outcomes, and costs of acute rheumatic fever and RHD, and will contribute to developing strategies to end RHD as a problem in Indigenous Australians. A second study uses linked data from 3 states to investigate trends and differences in acute CHD between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations under 55 years when disparities are the greatest, including reviewing the impact of funding initiatives since 2009. A third study will apply similar methods to stroke in 4 jurisdictions.  An innovative hospital-based randomised control trial will further evaluate the effectiveness of culturally secure rehabilitation services on the quality of life of Indigenous stroke survivors.

The research will be undertaken in collaboration with a strong network of researchers and stakeholders focused on wide dissemination of results and efforts to work with clinicians, services, and policy makers to ensure action and progress towards ‘Closing the Gap’. The stroke trial will inform guidelines and policy for culturally secure rehabilitation services. The linked data studies will contribute to the development of national data platforms for monitoring CVD in the Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

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