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Local action funded to eliminate rheumatic heart disease

Five Aboriginal Medical Services and the Telethon Kids Institute will together receive more than $4.6 million to target rheumatic heart disease (RHD) hot spots across the nation.

Expansion of the Government’s Rheumatic Fever Strategy would include practical environmental health hygiene activities and intensive health promotion measures to help combat both acute rheumatic fever and the associated RHD.

Rheumatic heart disease and acute rheumatic fever take scores of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives each year, including young people who never get a chance to reach their full potential.

Five Aboriginal Medical Services will share in $3.7 million over three years to lead local pilot programs to combat the disease.

These are the Pika Wiya Health Service in South Australia, the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service in Western Australia, the Apunipima Cape York Health Council in Queensland, and the Malabam Health Board and the Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation in the Northern Territory.

With two-thirds of the WA Indigenous population suffering from RHD living in the Kimberley, the Telethon Kids Institute will also receive $950,000 over two years to establish an innovative END RHD Community approach across the region.

This will include local environmental health, Aboriginal health and project officers to coordinate community-led partnerships targeting rheumatic fever and RHD.

“Between the funding for the KAMS and the money for the establishment of the Telethon program, nearly $1.7 million has been committed to the Kimberley by the federal government to help end RHD,” Ms Price said.

“This Government recognises the vital role local Aboriginal Medical Services play in the community and we believe these organisations are pivotal in averting new cases of this preventable disease.”

RHD is damage to the heart valves caused by repeated bouts of acute rheumatic fever, which is an auto-immune reaction to untreated throat and skin infections. Poor living conditions make these infections, and therefore rheumatic fever, more likely.

The Telethon program will place a stronger focus on tackling environmental factors, to reduce transmission of the Streptococcus A infection associated with acute rheumatic fever.

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