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Improving the management of rheumatic heart disease.

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Media Release

Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

29th August, 2003


The Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, today announced funding of $123,000 for a project to support better management and prevention of rheumatic heart disease in Aboriginal communities in northern Australia.

This project arises out of a need to identify why rheumatic heart disease continues to be a significant cause of ill health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to develop local level responses which will work.

"I am aware that the rates of rheumatic heart disease in the more remote areas of Australia are among the highest in the world. I also understand that it can be prevented through the administration of penicillin, but that there are problems around uptake of this treatment. These problems include management of the considerable pain associated with some treatment options," Senator Patterson said.

"This project will explore how to improve the management of this disease at a community level by drawing directly from the experiences of those who have the disease and those who treat it.

"I am aware that some communities have developed effective strategies and resources. This project will enable the sharing of experiences across northern areas of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. These will be used to support improve approaches to the prevention and management of this disease," Senator Patterson said.

The project builds on $443,000 already provided by the Commonwealth to the Northern Territory Health Department between 1997 - 2002 to establish registers of people with rheumatic heart disease in the Top End and Central Australia. It will be conducted in partnership with the Centre for Disease Control, and has been supported as a priority by the National Heart, Stroke and Vascular Health Strategies Group.

"As a result of this project patients and health workers will have access to better information and treatments to assist in preventing ill-health and deaths associated with rheumatic heart disease," Senator Patterson said.

The Project will also make recommendations on how to support local management of rheumatic heart disease in a range of ways, building on the activities of schools, health centres and local communities.

Media inquiries: Sarah Higginbottom, Assistant Media Adviser, Senator Patterson's office, 02 6277 7220.

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