Last updated May 29, 2018 at 12:12 pm
The most recent national health survey found that almost two in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women over 18 report having some form of cardiovascular disease, with hospitalisations for heart attack or stroke occurring at twice the rate of non-Indigenous women.
PhD Candidate at the University of South Australia and SAHMRI researcher, Katharine McBride says there is a critical need to understand the factors that protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from heart disease or stroke, the biggest killer of men and women in Australia.
“There is a strong narrative about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men being more susceptible to heart attack and stroke at young ages,” says Ms McBride. “But the heart health of women has received less research attention, even though communities identify it as a real issue.”
Ms McBride is also working with health services to promote understanding of the risk factors for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, prioritising those protective and risk factors identified by the community.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s heart health needs to become a priority for health professionals so that we can tailor services to meet the needs of women, and begin to close the gap in life expectancy.”
As well as the huge emotional impact of losing members of the community at young ages, there is also loss of cultural, social and economic capital.
“Sharing knowledge on the protective factors associated with heart disease and stroke and improving the way that we identify and manage risk in its early stages can really help improve health care.”
Halfway through her PhD, Ms McBride sheds light on what the research could achieve within the following two years.
“I’m hoping this study will be able to help to improve health system responses to providing heart health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women of all ages.”