Information for health professionals

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Closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who experience and die from cardiovascular disease at much higher rates than other Australians. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, when compared with other Australians, are:

  • 1.3 times as likely to have cardiovascular disease (1)
  • three times more likely to have a major coronary event, such as a heart attack (2)
  • more than twice as likely to die in hospital from coronary heart disease (2)
  • 19 times as likely to die from acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart Disease (3)
  • more likely to smoke, have high blood pressure, be obese, have diabetes and have end-stage renal disease.(3)

Our commitment

The Heart Foundation is a co-signatory to the national Close the Gap campaign. We are committed to improving the life expectancy and quality of life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  No plan or strategy can successfully address these health challenges unless it specifically addresses heart, stroke and blood vessel disease.

For more than a decade, the Heart Foundation has been building knowledge and experience in improving the cardiovascular health of Indigenous Australians. 

Our priorities

The Heart Foundation has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to identify the following seven priorities that need to addressed to tackle the unacceptable disparity in health outcomes suffered by the first Australians. The following documents outline how health practitioners can help reduce disparity.  

  1. Reduce consumption of tobacco and make healthy lifestyle choices easy (PDF)
  2. Improve early identification and ongoing management of cardiovascular risk factors (PDF)  
  3. Improve access to timely and culturally appropriate diagnostic services (PDF)  
  4. Strengthen the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic heart disease (PDF)  
  5. Improve in-hospital disparities in care for patients experiencing acute coronary syndrome (ACS) (PDF)  
  6. Improve participation in cardiac rehabilitation and ongoing care (PDF)  
  7. Improve access and adherence to medication across the continuum of the patient journey (PDF)  

More information


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2004 05, Cat. No. CVD 29, June 2008.
  2. AIHW: Mathur S, Moon L, Leigh S. 2006. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with coronary heart disease: further perspectives on health status and treatment. Cardiovascular disease series no. 25. Cat. No. CVD 33. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Heart, stroke and vascular diseases Australian facts 2004. AIHW Cat. No. CVD 27. Canberra: AIHW and National Heart Foundation of Australia (Cardiovascular Disease Series No. 22).

Guidelines, tools and position statements

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet

Since 2005, the Heart Foundation has been working with the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet to develop an integrated knowledge resource on Indigenous cardiovascular health. The development of a free online yarning place (electronic network or ‘community of practice’) devoted to Indigenous cardiovascular disease is an important part of this work.

The yarning place lets people with an interest in Indigenous cardiovascular health and disease share information, knowledge and experience nationally. People from across different sectors (such as health, education and justice) and organisations are welcome to join.

For more information visit HealthInfoNet

In Their Own Voice

"In Their Own Voice" is an article written by Heart Foundation staff and researchers. The article incorporates underlying social determinants into Aboriginal health promotion programs. It has been published in the IJERPH (International Journal of Environmental Research and Health) as part of the
Special Issue Indigenous Health and Wellbeing. Lyn Dimer, Cultural Lead for Aboriginal Health at the Heart Foundation worked on the study. 

Information for your patients

Heart smart mob-style resources

Heart smart mob-style has been developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students by including culturally relevant resources and learning experiences. It targets stage 2 outcomes and indicators from the NSW Personal Development, Health and Physical Education syllabus and Science and Technology syllabus documents. Download the resources or order copies from the Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87.

Information sheets

These information sheets on cardiovascular disease and its risk factors have been developed by the Heart Foundation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Designed for patients and families, these information sheets are easy to read and can be used to distribute to people at workshops, community events or during individual consultations. Download below or call the Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87 to order your copies.

Heart failure resources

Living every day with my heart failure is culturally and clinically appropriate health information to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with heart failure better manage their condition.

The booklet includes a "My heart failure" action plan and medicines record sheet. You can access extra copies of these and other worksheets below. 

To order your copy, call our Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87 or email us.

Hypertension resources

The Heart Foundation, in partnership with the NPS, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, has developed hypertension resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The resources, developed to help Aboriginal Health Workers and health professionals deliver patient education, also support the Good Medicine Better Health hypertension module. The resources include a flip chart, patient brochure and five flyers for the patient and their families to take home.

These resources can also be ordered in hard copy from NPS by completing this order form.

The Lighthouse Toolkit

This health professional toolkit provides a framework to address health disparities facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Central Coast health professionals to unpack heart disease in Australian women

Heart Health Network

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