NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: RHD finally on the verge of elimination

RHD Endstrategy feature tile & small Aboriginal girl making heart shape with her hands, Aboriginal woman and teenage Aboriginal boy standing behind girl, all in front of a large tree

Rheumatic Heart Disease finally on the verge of elimination

Australia now has an evidence-based approach to achieve the national goal of eliminating rheumatic heart disease (RHD) within a decade.

The Endgame Strategy was launched by The Hon. Greg Hunt, MP, Minister for Health, alongside Professor Jonathan Carapetis AM, senior author of the Strategy and Ms Pat Turner AM, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation by webinar today, Thursday 24 September.

More than 5,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are living with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) – for which there is no cure – or its precursor, acute rheumatic fever. This deadly, yet entirely preventable, heart disease taking the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is finally on the verge of elimination thanks to new research released today. Implementation of the RHD Endgame Strategy, an evidence-based approach, could prevent 8,000 new RHD cases and 650 deaths by 2031 and achieve the national goal of eliminating RHD within a decade.

A deadly yet entirely preventable heart disease taking the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is finally on the verge of elimination thanks to new research released today.

The RHD Endgame Strategy: the blueprint to eliminate rheumatic heart disease in Australia by 2031, has been five years in the making and pairs research by leading infectious diseases specialists with the knowledge and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders across the country.

Produced by the End Rheumatic Heart Disease Centre of Research Excellence (END RHD CRE), based at Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute, with the backing of 25 leading health and research organisations – including the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) – the report clearly sets out the steps needed to eliminate the disease.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector was heavily involved in development of the Strategy, with Ms Pat Turner AM, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of the Peaks, saying that tackling RHD was a priority for communities.

Images and Video Source Credit: Telethon Kids Institute

“Our people are telling us that they want to use research evidence to help choose community-driven solutions to tackle RHD,” Ms Turner said.

“Kids are coming off country for months at a time for surgery, people are dying before their time. We’ve got the community demand, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership – and with the Endgame Strategy, a culturally appropriate and meaningful plan.

“What we need now is funding and commitment to actually do the work on the ground to make ending this disease possible.

“It really is unconscionable to let the next generation of our children develop this disease – to be subjected to heart surgery, a needle every month, and have their life expectancy limited by decades – when we know how to stop this.”

Professor Carapetis agreed, highlighting that without a catalytic investment, the Commonwealth Government was unlikely to meet its commitment to eliminate the disease by 2031.

“The Commonwealth Government has been open about their commitment to eliminating RHD within the next decade, so we hope that with the release of the Endgame, we now have the final piece of the puzzle needed to make this shared vision a reality,” Professor Carapetis said.

To view the media release in full click here.

To view a snapshot of the RHD Endgame Strategy click here.

CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of END RHD Pat Turner AM spoken earlier today about the significance of the RHD Endgame Strategy. She said it is “a world-leading project for researchers to walk with us and make the commitments to end rheumatic heart disease a reality.” She called for that cycle of infection, disease and tremendous sadness to end, saying “We know what needs to be done, and we know that it can be done. Our shared vision is that no child born in Australia from this day forward dies of RHD.”

Pat Turner’s RHD Endgame Strategy launch full speech can be viewed here.

Vicki O’Donnell, Chairperson of the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA), praised the RHD Endgame Strategy launch saying “Absolutely awesome launch of the RHD Strategy. So proud to be a part of better outcomes for our kids and families in the future.”

Aged just seven, Tenaya underwent emergency life-saving surgery to repair her heart valve as a result of developing rheumatic heart disease (RHD), the leading cause of cardiovascular inequality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia. Watch the story in the link below

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