Two NT Aboriginal Health Services have been successful in receiving funding from the Government’s $4.6 million investment to target Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) hot spots across the nation.
Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion, said the 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.
“RHD 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,” Senator Scullion said.
“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.
“Malabam Health Board and Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation will each receive $742,000 over three years to lead local pilot programmes to combat RHD.
“Malabam Health Board will cover Maningrida and Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation will focus on the Yirrkala and Millingimbi communities in East Arnhem Land.
“Our Government recognises the vital role local Aboriginal Medical Services play in their community and we believe these organisations are vital to averting new cases of this preventable disease.”
“This funding of $1.48 million to Malabam Health Board and Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation is in addition to the $3.6 m over four years to 2021 for the Menzies School of Health Research for education and training; and another $3.7 m directly to the NT Government over four years to 2021 for secondary prevention activities.
“The Commonwealth is also investing record funding of $550 million into the Northern Territory to improve housing in Indigenous communities. This is critical given the impact of overcrowding on rheumatic heart disease.”
“More than 6,000 First Nations people live with RHD and the treatment could be painful and prolonged,” Senator Scullion said.
“These new programmes will help underpin the Roadmap to Eliminate Rheumatic Heart Disease which is currently being developed.
“Through this roadmap and the guidance of key stakeholders and experts, we will eliminate this disease and improve the health and living conditions of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now and into the future.
“The Government is making a significant investment in RHD prevention, allocating $23.6 million to the Rheumatic Fever Strategy over the next four years.
“The strategy supports state and territory-based programs to register, manage and control acute rheumatic fever and RHD.”