” Heart-related conditions, such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, and rheumatic heart disease (RHD), contribute substantially to poor health and reduced life expectancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Cardiac conditions are more common among Indigenous than non-Indigenous Australians, and there are many interconnected reasons for this, including higher rates of risk factors for cardiac conditions (such as smoking, low levels of physical activity, overweight or obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure), and poorer access to preventative health services “
AIHW Report Released July 6
Read Previous NACCHO Aboriginal Heart Health : @HeartAust #NickysMessage “Heart disease is the number one killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “
Better Cardiac Care project and selected extracts
The Better Cardiac Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People project is an initiative that was developed at the Better Cardiac Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Forum, held in March 2014 (BCCF 2014).
Representatives from various Indigenous and other organisations, as well as Australian Government and jurisdictional health departments attended the forum.
The project aims to reduce mortality and morbidity from cardiac conditions among Indigenous Australians, by increasing access to services, better managing risk factors and treatment, and improving coordination of care.
The forum established 5 priority areas of interventions that health services should undertake to improve cardiac care for Indigenous Australians, which:
- are aligned with national and international best-practice guidelines for cardiac care and chronic disease
- were informed by the Essential Service Standards for Equitable National Cardiovascular Care
- focus on providing sustainable models of care built around partnerships between all health service providers.
The 5 priority areas are:
- primary preventive care—early cardiovascular risk assessment and management
- clinical suspicion of disease—timely diagnosis of heart disease and heart failure
- acute episode—guideline-based therapy for acute coronary syndrome
- ongoing care—optimisation of health status and provision of ongoing preventive care
- rheumatic heart disease—strengthening the diagnosis, notification, and follow-up of RHD.
A set of 21 Better Cardiac Care measures (Table 1.1) were also developed to track the implementation and monitoring of the priority areas and associated actions
Priority area 1: Early cardiovascular risk assessment and management
Priority area 1 of the Better Cardiac Care project is early cardiovascular risk assessment and management. This is based on the premise that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with no known cardiac disease should receive:
- an annual cardiovascular risk assessment
- appropriate management and follow-up for identified cardiac disease risk factors
- lifestyle modification advice appropriate to their cardiovascular risk level, as per current guidelines (NACCHO & RACGP 2012).
Primary prevention in the form of early and consistent risk factor identification and management will improve long-term outcomes for Indigenous Australians, reduce the population burden of chronic cardiac disease, and improve the appropriate delivery of care by the health-care system (BCCF 2014).
Three measures were agreed upon within this priority area, and updated data are available for measure 1.1 on health assessments.
The data for measure 1.2 are expected to become available for the next report, which will be provided based on the AIHW data collection on the national key performance indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care.
Measure 1.1: Annual health assessments
This measure reports on the number and proportion of Indigenous Australians who had a Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) health assessment in the previous 12 months (Table B.2 in Appendix B contains the list of relevant MBS item numbers included in the measure).
Why is it important?
Health assessments aim to increase preventative health opportunities, detect chronic disease risk factors, manage existing chronic disease, and reduce inequities in access to primary care for Indigenous Australians. Early detection and management of risk factors for cardiac disease (such as smoking, physical inactivity, high blood pressure) can reduce the incidence of cardiac disease and lessen its severity.
All Indigenous Australians are eligible for an annual health assessment, which is listed as item 715 on the MBS.This comprehensive health asessement covers a wide variety of risk factors related to cardiac disease and other chronic diseases, including medical history, nutrition, physical activity, smoking and alcohol intake, living conditions, and body mass index, although it is not a specific cardiovascular risk assessment. People within specified target groups may also be eligible for other types of MBS health assessments (Department of Health 2014), which are referred to as ‘general’ health assessments in this report.
- In 2015–16, more than one-quarter of Indigenous Australians (27%, or an estimated 199,400 people) received a health assessment—about 26% received an MBS item 715 health assessment, and about 1% received a general health assessment (Figure 1.1a).
- Between 2004–05 and 2015–16, the age-standardised proportion of Indigenous Australians who had an MBS health assessment rose from 2% to 27% for females, and from 2% to 24% for males (Figure 1.1b).
- From 2014–15 to 2015–16, the overall proportion rose by 3 percentage points.
- A marked increase occurred from 2010–11, coinciding with the introduction of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Chronic Disease Package.
Sex and age:
- more Indigenous females than males had an MBS health assessment (Figure 1.1b)
- about one-quarter (25%) of Indigenous children aged under 15 had an MBS health assessment. Among Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over, the proportion rose from 21% among those aged 15–24 to 38% among those aged 65 and over (Figure 1.1c).
State/territory and remoteness area:
In 2015–16, the proportion of Indigenous Australians who had an MBS health assessment was:
- highest in Queensland (33%), and lowest in Tasmania (9%) (Figure 1.1d)
- highest in Inner/Outer regional areas combined (29%), and lowest in Major cities (21%)
Priority area 2: Timely diagnosis of heart disease and heart failure
Priority area 2 of the Better Cardiac Care project is timely diagnosis of heart disease and heart failure.
This is based on the premise that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suspected of having heart disease or heart failure should receive appropriate initial diagnostic services (such as stress testing or coronary angiography for ischaemic heart disease, or echocardiography for heart failure and rheumatic heart disease) as close to the patient’s home as possible, within acceptable timeframes according to the level of risk and the patient’s condition (BCCF 2014).
Of the 3 measures recommended for this priority area, data are available for:
- measure 2.1 for Medicare-listed diagnostic items
- measure 2.3 for cardiologist review of suspected/confirmed cardiac disease
Measure 2.1: Cardiac-related diagnosis
This measure reports on the number and proportion of Indigenous Australians who had 1 or more relevant cardiac-related MBS diagnostic item claims in the previous 12 months, compared with non-Indigenous Australians (Table B.2 in Appendix B contains the list of relevant MBS item numbers included in the measure).The current report includes additional MBS items within measure 2.1, compared with the second national report (AIHW 2016); as such the results are not comparable. Additional MBS items were used to more accurately capture the status of cardiac-related diagnoses, and were obtained from the Cardiac Services Clinical Committee of the Medical Benefit Schedule Review Taskforce (Department of Health 2017).
Why is it important?
People suspected of having cardiac disease should receive appropriate and timely diagnostic services. Categories of diagnostic tests captured by this measure include:
- diagnostic procedures and investigations—19 items that include various kinds of electrocardiography, and pacemaker and defibrillator testing
- diagnostic imaging services—25 items that include various kinds of echocardiography, computed tomography scans and angiography (Department of Health 2018).
- 64,909 MBS claims for cardiac-related diagnostic items were made for Indigenous patients (age-standardised proportion of 13.2%), compared with 3,178,327 claims for non-Indigenous patients (proportion of 12.1%).
- 45,932 claims for diagnostic procedures and investigations (age-standardised proportion of 9.3%), and 18,977 claims for diagnostic imaging services (age-standardised proportion of 3.9%) were made for Indigenous patients—both proportions were slightly higher than for non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 2.1a).
- Between 2004–05 and 2015–16, the age-standardised proportion of Indigenous Australians who had cardiac-related diagnostic items MBS claims rose from 6.8% to 10.4%, with a similar pattern for non-Indigenous Australians (rising from 6.9% to 9.1%) (Figure 2.1b).
Sex and age:
In 2015–16, the proportion of Indigenous Australians who had MBS claims for cardiac-related diagnostic items:
- rose with increasing age, with the lowest proportion among those aged under 25. It was slightly higher than that of non-Indigenous Australians in all age groups, except for those aged 65 and over, where proportions were higher among non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 2.1c)
- was lower overall than that of non-Indigenous Australians, for men and women, with Indigenous women having slightly higher proportions than Indigenous men (Figure 2.1d).
Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2017 11
State/territory and remoteness area:
In 2015–16, the proportions of MBS claims for cardiac-related diagnostic items:
- ranged from 3% to 13% across states and territories, and from 7% to 8% across remoteness areas among Indigenous Australians (figures 2.1e and 2.1f)
- were lower among Indigenous Australians living in Major cities and Inner/Outer regional areas combined than their non-Indigenous counterparts (Figure 2.1f).
Priority area 4: Optimisation of health status and provision of ongoing preventive care
Priority area 4 is optimisation of health status and provision of ongoing preventive care. This is based on the premise that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cardiac conditions should receive ongoing multidisciplinary primary health care and specialist physician follow-up as required, to prevent further illness, and to optimise health status (BCCF 2014).
Of the 4 measures recommended for this priority area, MBS data are available for:
- measure 4.2 for follow-up after receiving a cardiovascular therapeutic procedure
- measure 4.3 for specialist physician review after a cardiovascular therapeutic procedure
Priority area 5: Strengthening the diagnosis, notification and follow-up of rheumatic heart disease
Priority area 5 of the Better Cardiac Care project is strengthening the diagnosis, notification and follow-up of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) (BCCF 2014). This is based on the premise that:
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suspected to have acute rheumatic fever (ARF) or RHD should receive an echocardiogram as early as possible
- new cases should be automatically reported to a central register to help track patients, and ensure ongoing care.
There is no diagnostic pathology test for ARF; instead, its diagnosis is based on a clinical decision (RHD Australia et al. 2012). The clinical manifestation of ARF is non-specific and can be atypical, with delays in both presentation and referral of patients. As a result, ARF can often go undetected in the acute stage, leading to ongoing complications and lifelong morbidity.
Of the 4 measures recommended for this priority area, data are available from RHD registers in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory for:
- measure 5.1 for the annual incidence of ARF and RHD
- measure 5.2 for recurrent ARF
- measure 5.3 for treatment with benzathine penicillin G doses
- measure 5.4 for echocardiograms among patients with severe or moderate RHD.