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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Projects aimed at improving the heart health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Key takeaways

  • The Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program focused on improving heart health outcomes in the Pilbara region of northern Western Australia.  
  • The Lighthouse Hospital Project aimed to reduce the incidence and impact of discharge against medical advice (DAMA) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients admitted to a participating hospital with acute coronary syndrome (ACS).  

The Heart Foundation is committed to improving the delivery of best practice cardiovascular services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at risk of, or impacted by, heart disease.  

We implement projects and work with communities and healthcare professionals to ensure quality, culturally appropriate heart health services are provided for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to help them live a stronger and healthier life. 

Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program  

Delivered by the Heart Foundation with support from Chevron Australia this program worked with local communities to help improve heart health in the Pilbara region of Western Australia between 2014 and 2020.    

About the Pilbara Aboriginal Heart Health Program   

The Pilbara Program focused on improving heart health outcomes in three communities in the Pilbara region: Karratha, Onslow and Roebourne. 

The local Aboriginal community helped guide the development of the program to ensure the work was culturally appropriate and met local needs. The program delivered heart health activities across:  

  • Nutrition  
  • Physical activity and exercise  
  • Heart health education  
  • Access to health services  

The Heart Foundation would like to thank the community members and organisations that we worked alongside, who generously helped shaped the program and share their stories with us.     

The Pilbara Program team collaborated with health professionals and community members to develop culturally appropriate and practical health information:  

The Lighthouse Hospital Project  

The Lighthouse Hospital Project aimed to reduce the incidence and impact of discharge against medical advice (DAMA) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients admitted to a participating hospital with acute coronary syndrome (ACS).   

By improving the patient journey of people faced with heart disease, we can enhance their ability to live well and longer.   

Many factors contribute to the negative experiences Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples feel when in hospital, including institutional racism, discrimination, and cultural insensitivity.    

From 2012-2019 the Australian Government funded the Lighthouse Hospital Project, in response to these heart health disparities and to help close the heart health gap.   

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Australia, and coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, heart disease is a major contributor to the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.  

The Lighthouse Hospital Project was a joint initiative between the Heart Foundation and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) to improve health and care outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with ACS. There were three phases.  

The Lighthouse Toolkit was developed in Phase 2 and provided a framework for hospitals in subsequent phases to meet a range of cardiac and accreditation standards including the execution of the Australian Commission of Safety and Quality (ACSQHC), Acute Coronary Care Standard as well as compliance with the ACSQHC National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards – specifically standards 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 9.   

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