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Predicting heart disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

This study was a follow-up of cardiovascular disease outcomes for a cohort of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory who participated in a health screening program (Heart Health) in the 1990s. It aimed to identify what clinical measures best predict the risk of heart attack and stroke in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia.

The first community for whom data collection and analysis was complete was Utopia. The principal finding for this community was that adult mortality rates from all causes during the period 1995-2004 were about 40% lower at Utopia compared to those for Aboriginal people in the NT generally.

Other findings included:

It is thought that the benefits of a traditional lifestyle, enabled by the decentralized nature of the community and including regular exercise and intake of bush tucker, is one reason why Utopia residents have achieved these good outcomes, along with lower rates of smoking, strong culture, and the community-directed nature of primary health care services provided by Urapuntja Health Service.

Data collection is complete for other participating communities, and the aggregated dataset is being used to identify the best predictors of cardiovascular disease, so that preventive treatment may be better targeted.

Risk factor surveys were conducted in 1988 and 1995 at Utopia and other communities, and aggregate results reported. Working in collaboration with the community-controlled Urapuntja Health Service and other local services under the terms of written, negotiated project agreements, researchers in this study collected 10-year follow-up data on mortality and hospitalisation from CVD relating to a cohort of about 700 participants in the 1995 surveys. Data for each community has been analysed and reported back in community reports.

Related resources:
Project leader

Patricia Valery & Mark Wenitong



Administering institution:

Queensland Institute of Medical Research