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A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that there have been some improvements in cardiac care and lower death rates from cardiac conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

'The report Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: 2015 shows that the death rate from cardiac conditions for Indigenous Australians decreased by 41% between 1998 and 2012, from 347 to 215 per 100,000 people,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Al-Yaman.

'And the proportion of Indigenous Australians who had procedure to open a blocked or narrowed artery upon presentation to hospital with a severe heart attack increased from 25% in 2004-05 to 46% in 2012-13.'

But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to have higher rates of cardiac conditions and poorer access to health services to prevent and treat these conditions.

In order to address this, in 2014 Australian governments agreed to the Better Cardiac Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People initiatives and priority actions. These aim to reduce illness and deaths from cardiac conditions by improving access to services, better managing risk factors and treatment, and improving the quality and coordination of care throughout the patient journey.

'This is the first national report on the 21 Better Cardiac Care measures that were designed to monitor changes in cardiac care over time,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

'The indicators look at things like the timely diagnosis of cardiac conditions, whether appropriate treatment was received, and if follow-up treatment was delivered to patients at a high risk of developing cardiac conditions. This first report will be a benchmark, allowing us to monitor changes over time,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

The report found that the death rate for cardiac conditions for Indigenous Australians in 2008-2012 was 212 per 100,000 compared with 133 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous Australians. Among people who presented to hospital with a severe heart attack, 46% of Indigenous Australians had a relevant procedure, compared with 70% of non-Indigenous Australians.

The report also shows that access to cardiac prevention and treatment services for Indigenous Australians varied by state and region.

'For example, the proportion of Indigenous people who presented to a hospital with a severe heart attack and had a relevant procedure in 2010-13 ranged from 21% in the Northern Territory to 62% in Western Australia, and from 29% in Very remote areas to 64% in Major cities,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

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, 3 August 2015

Further information: Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1146 mob. 0407 068 033

Full publication:  Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: 2015