Chronic disease support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Chronic disease is one of the main factors behind the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. We fund a range of programs to prevent, detect and manage chronic conditions.

Along with our support for primary care services, we fund 2 general programs providing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic diseases:

We also fund programs that focus on key conditions that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Diabetes

One of the goals of our National Diabetes Strategy is to reduce the impact of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Quality Assurance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medical Services (QAAMS) program provides rapid, on-site diabetes testing in many locations across Australia. Many of the QAAMS sites are in rural and remote areas. These tests provide a result within minutes, meaning patients can get their results during the same appointment.

Smoking

The Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program aims to improve life expectancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by reducing the harm from tobacco use. Local organisations run activities designed to reduce smoking rates. The program provides resources and tools to support these activities.

Heart disease

The rate of deaths from heart disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has fallen by half in the past 20 years. However, heart disease is still the leading cause of death, despite being highly preventable if detected early and managed with lifestyle changes and medication.

High risk of heart disease begins early for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. To prevent heart disease, it’s important to identify risk factors early and manage them well.

A toolkit is available to help health professionals talk about heart disease with their patients. It contains information about prevention, identification and management of heart disease.

See the Cardiovascular disease risk communication with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: Toolkit for health professionals.

Rheumatic heart disease

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a preventable condition. In Australia, it mostly affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – particularly those in rural and remote places. In RHD, the valves of the heart become damaged after a person has had acute rheumatic fever (ARF). ARF is caused by an autoimmune reaction to an infection with a bacteria known as Strep A.

The Australian Government is committed to ending RHD as a public health issue by 2030. To achieve this, the Australian Government is making significant investments to address ARF and RHD through:

The Rheumatic Fever Strategy includes:

  • state-based register and control programs in the NT, WA, SA and QLD, to improve detection, monitoring and management of ARF and RHD
  • developing clinical guidelines to prevent, diagnose and manage ARF and RHD
  • developing resources and providing education and training for healthcare professionals, communities, and for individuals with these conditions and their carers
  • piloting activities in high-risk communities to help prevent new cases of ARF
  • national analysis and reporting on the data from state-based registers.

For more on RHD, see RHDAustralia.

Kidney disease

Kidney disease is a leading cause of death and disability for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have funded Kidney Health Australia to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to create specific guidelines for Indigenous kidney disease. 

Cancer

Our portfolio agency Cancer Australia has developed an optimal care pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with cancer.

Our cancer screening programs have developed resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Breast cancer

BreastScreen Australia has resources:

  • in English, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • translated into several Indigenous languages.

Bowel cancer

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has resources to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do the bowel cancer screening test.

Cervical cancer

The National Cervical Screening Program has resources:

  • in English, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • translated into several Indigenous languages.

More information and resources

We also fund programs to support a healthy lifestyle, which can prevent some chronic diseases.

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has more information chronic diseases and other health topics, including:

  • publications
  • policies
  • programs
  • organisations
  • courses
  • events
  • funding.
Last updated: 
30 June 2021

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