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Indigenous Australians have fewer hospital procedures

01 December, 2009

When Indigenous Australians do get to hospital, they have fewer procedures and poorer outcomes than the rest of the population.

A forum at Parliament House Canberra, held on November 24th, 2009, examined existing data and looked at the reasons behind lower intervention rates, and canvassed policy options to close this important gap in health outcomes, believed to be a significant contributing factor to the broader life expectancy gap.

The forum was an initiative of the Heart Foundation and Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA), who worked together to develop a paper for consideration by the forum to canvas policy options to close the gap in hospital intervention rates.

The director of the Heart Foundation's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program, Traven Lea, says that in-hospital fatality and procedure rates for Indigenous Australians are far worse than for other Australians.

We know that Indigenous Australians have three times the rate of major coronary events such as heart attack, are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer out-of-hospital death from coronary heart disease, and account for more than twice the in-hospital deaths from coronary heart disease than non-Indigenous Australians, Lea said.

As Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows, when in hospital, Indigenous Australians have more than twice the in-hospital CHD death rate, a 40% lower rate of being investigated by angiography, a 40% lower rate of coronary angioplasty or stent procedures, and a 20% lower rate of coronary bypass surgery.

Reducing these disparities will greatly contribute to the national effort to help close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Lea said.

The AHHA executive director Prue Power says that while disparities have been recognised, there is a great deal of work required to effectively counter the imbalance.

"We have recently witnessed a landmark investment of $1.6bn by federal and state and territory governments to close the gap on Indigenous life expectancy. This agenda now needs to be broadened to address hospital disparities.

"The forum will help us complete our policy paper, which will then be formally presented to government for consideration, " Power said.
Source: Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

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