Information for action: improving the heart health story for Aboriginal people in WA

23 Feb 2015

This report finds that Aboriginal people experience both illness and death from heart disease at higher rates and at a much earlier average age than non-Aboriginal people, underscoring the urgency to direct efforts ‘upstream’ towards primary prevention and earlier, community-based detection and intervention.


This report primarily draws on research looking at disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Western Australians in cardiovascular health and health care, conducted with funding from three research grants, the most recent known as the Bettering Aboriginal Heart Health in WA project.

The methods used have included interviews, reviews of hospital records, analyses of linked hospital and mortality data, and literature reviews. Part I of the report primarily comprises summaries of the studies along with Key Findings and Recommendations arising from the research, while Part II details ‘Strategies for Action’ incorporating input from stakeholders and other strategic  documents.

The research initially centred on coronary heart disease, with statistical analysis of state-wide WA data, to determine the occurrence, comorbidities and outcomes for Aboriginal people, including age, sex, and geographic distributions. The team is now also studying other heart conditions such as heart failure and abnormalities of heart rhythm (dysrhythmias). Key heart conditions covered in this report are briefly explained in boxes in the relevant sections.

Qualitative research was undertaken on the experiences of both the Aboriginal people affected by these illnesses and the health professionals involved in their care. This research aimed to understand the barriers and enablers of quality care provision and to promote optimal models of care. These original research projects were supplemented with critical reviews of published literature, resulting in stand-alone publications on the topics of interest.

The BAHHWA project has had significant input from a number of key partnerships, including with the Heart Foundation, and the Cardiovascular Health Network and Aboriginal Health Division of the WA Department of Health. 

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