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Indigenous Australians are more likely to die from coronary heart disease (CHD) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than non-Indigenous Australians, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

CHD and COPD are leading causes of morbidity, disability and mortality among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have poorer outcomes from these diseases than non-Indigenous Australians.

These diseases develop at younger ages and progress faster in Indigenous Australians than in non-Indigenous Australians.

'Indigenous Australians were twice as likely to die from CHD and nearly 3 times as likely to die from COPD as non-Indigenous Australians between 2007 and 2011,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman said.

'Between 2001 and 2011 however, CHD death rates improved, with the rate of Indigenous deaths due to CHD falling by 36% over that time.'

While there was a statistically significant decline in the COPD death rate for non-Indigenous males over the period 2001 to 2011, there was no statistically significant trend for Indigenous males and females or for non-Indigenous females over this period.

In 2012-13, about 4% of Indigenous adults reported having COPD, which was 2.5 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

Self-reported prevalence of CHD was 1.7 times higher for Indigenous males and 2.7 times higher for Indigenous females than for their non-Indigenous counterparts based on the latest available data.

A number of risk factors for CHD and COPD are higher among Indigenous Australians.

For example, in 2012-13, Indigenous adults were 2.6 times as likely to smoke tobacco daily as were non-Indigenous Australians.

'However, what's encouraging is that rates of smoking among Indigenous adults are declining. The proportion of Indigenous adults who smoked daily fell from 51% to 44% between 2001 and 2012-13,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

'And some other good news is that rates of chronic disease management are rising, with an increased uptake of MBS health checks, General Practitioner Management Plans, Team Care Arrangements and Closing the Gap prescriptions.'

The paper, Coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Indigenous Australians, is available on the AIHW's website.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 26 June 2014

Further information: Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1146

Full publication: Coronary heart disease and chronic obstructivepulmonary disease in Indigenous Australians