Landmark Biomedical Health Survey Released Today

By Petrina Smith
Thursday, 11 September, 2014

Following the release of a landmark biomedical health survey, the National Heart Foundation of Australia says cardiovascular disease will remain a major contributor the the gap in life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.
Today’s release forms part of the largest and most comprehensive biomedical health survey ever conducted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
The results, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Biomedical Results, 2012–13  reveal:

  • Two in three (65.3%) had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, that is, they were taking cholesterol-lowering medication or had one or more of high total cholesterol, lower than normal levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high LDL (bad) cholesterol or high triglycerides.

  • A quarter (25.0%) had high cholesterol, but only around one in ten (9.1%) of this group were aware they had it.

  •  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were nearly twice as likely to have high triglycerides (rate ratio 1.9).

The health survey showed the risk factors for heart disease are greater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and far worse in remote areas.
Heart Foundation’s National Cardiovascular Health Director Dr Robert Grenfell said this survey highlights the need for stronger investment in prevention and shows that we need to keep working hard on risk factor identification and management for people at high risk of heart disease.
“To help close the gap we need every Indigenous patient, regardless of where they live, to be provided with the same level of health care as non-Indigenous Australians,” Dr Grenfell said.
One interesting finding from the survey was that Indigenous Australians are more likely to be taking cholesterol lowering drugs. One in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are taking cholesterol lowering medications compared to one in eight for non-Indigenous Australians.
Dr Grenfell said this is an indication that access to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has improved, but certainly more needs to be done.
The biomedical survey is conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and the Heart Foundation.
Voluntary blood and urine samples were tested from 3,300 survey respondents across the country.
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