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Indigenous Observatory CHD+COPD art PNG

Coronary heart disease (CHD) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are leading causes of morbidity and mortality among Indigenous people. These conditions contribute significantly to the burden of disease among Indigenous Australians.

High death rates and younger deaths

Indigenous Australians were twice as likely to die from CHD and nearly 3 times as likely to die from COPD as non-Indigenous Australians during the period 2007–2011.

Most Indigenous deaths from CHD and COPD occurred before the age of 75 (81% and 69% respectively). The opposite was true for non-Indigenous Australians (24% of CHD deaths and 29% of COPD deaths occurred before the age of 75) (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Indigenous and non Indigenous deaths from CHD and COPD, by age, NSW, Qld, WA, SA and NT combined, 2007–2011

CHD and COPD fig 1: death rates by age group PNG

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

High prevalence of risk factors

The prevalence of several risk factors for CHD and COPD is high in the Indigenous population. In 2012–13:

  • 44% of Indigenous adults smoked tobacco daily
  • 3 in 5 (62%) Indigenous adults were sedentary or engaged in low levels of exercise
  • over two-thirds (69%) of Indigenous adults were overweight or obese.

Smoking rates are declining

Indigenous adults were 2.6 times as likely to smoke tobacco daily as were non-Indigenous adults. However, the proportion of Indigenous adults who smoked daily fell from 51% in 2001 to 44% in 2012–13 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Prevalence of Indigenous current daily smokers aged 18 and over, 2001 to 2012–13 (selected years)

CHD and COPD fig 2: prevalence of smoking PNG

Source: ABS 2013a.

Chronic disease management is improving

Blood pressure management has improved between 2007–08 and 2010–11, with increases in both the number of Indigenous CHD patients who had a blood pressure test and the number who had a favourable blood pressure result.
There has also been an increased uptake of Medicare Benefits Schedule health checks (Figure 3), General Practitioner Management Plans, Team Care Arrangements and Closing the Gap prescriptions in recent years.

Figure 3: MBS health checks for Indigenous Australians, by age, 2006–07 to 2011–12 (number per 1,000 population)

CHD & COPD fig 3: Indigenous health checks PNG

Source: AIHW forthcoming.

CHD death rates are falling

The rate of Indigenous deaths due to CHD fell by 36% between 2001 and 2011. Non-Indigenous CHD mortality also fell by 35% over this period. The gap in CHD mortality between the 2 population groups fell from 89 deaths per 100,000 population in 2001 to 54 deaths per 100,000 in 2011 (39%).

CHD & COPD fig 4: CHS death rates trends PNG  

There was no statistically significant trend for Indigenous deaths due to COPD over the same period.

More information

Coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Indigenous Australians explores the prevalence of these conditions and their risk factors in the Indigenous population, and presents hospitalisation and mortality data for both these conditions.