Help end preventable deaths in Indigenous Communities

For Close the Gap Day, Bupa is asking Australians to join them in signing the Charter to End Rheumatic Heart Disease and eliminate preventable deaths in Indigenous communities.

As many as 400 000 Australians are thought to be at risk of Rheumatic Heart Disease.

With 98% of reported cases coming from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, eradicating this entirely preventable disease could go a long way to closing the gap in health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

The Bupa Health Foundation has pledged nearly half a million in funding to support END RHD communities, which will work with remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities at high risk of the disease.

Dr Rosemary Wyber, general practitioner and Head of Strategy for END RHD, said central to the project is the leadership of Aboriginal Community Workers who live in communities with a high burden of RHD.

The Aboriginal Community Workers develop professional partnerships with individuals and families at highest risk of rheumatic fever and RHD and assist them to navigate the health care system, increase their self-management capacity and manage environmental risk factors.
Dr Rosemary Wyber

This strategy builds on the success of Take Heart, which saw Bupa work in partnership with RHD Australia, the National Heart Foundation and Moonshine Agency to provide a range of tools and resources to raise awareness and improve treatment compliance.

A recent evaluation of the program, conducted by Implementing & Evaluating to Maximise Impact (IEMI), found the success of Take Heart came from its focus on community partnership and self-management. The resources have been translated into more than 15 Indigenous languages and include an app which aims to increase compliance with preventative health measures.

The report recommends building on key strategies in the Take Heart program to improve health outreach to Indigenous communities.

RHD is caused by complications arising from infections with group A streptococcus bacteria. Repeated infections can result in damage to heart valves, which in turn can cause progressive disability, reduction in quality of life, and cause premature death in young adults.

Dr Dwayne Crombie, Managing Director of Bupa Health Insurance saw the importance of a community led approach to health care as a young public health doctor, working to end rheumatic fever among Maori and Pacific Islander communities in South Auckland.

Dr Dwayne Crombie, Managing Director, Bupa Health Insurance
Solving community health problems takes more than just understanding illness and disease. It takes a community coming together respectfully. Building community partnerships is integral to closing the health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
Dr Dwayne Crombie, Managing Director, Bupa Health Insurance

The Australian government’s Closing the Gap Report 2019, released earlier this month, has shown both life expectancy and child mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to fall far below those for non-Indigenous Australians.

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