Issue 6
Tuesday, 07 August 2018
Charles Darwin University
Menzies is working with communities to prevent heart disease
Menzies is working with communities to prevent heart disease

Community helps to prevent rheumatic heart disease

Health activities driven by remote Indigenous communities may be the key to sustainable and successful treatment and prevention of a potentially fatal disease, a study has found.

In a study led by Menzies School of Health Research and Telethon Kids Institute, researchers learned strengthening local health systems to support the prevention of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) was successful to a certain extent.

However, the results of the study, published in two papers in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found activities in the study had only small measurable benefits due to the challenges in genuine community engagement, and limiting factors such as high staff turnover in remote clinics.

“The challenges identified here make a clear case for investment in community-led models of care, and better preventive strategies for RHD,” said study lead author at Menzies Associate Professor Anna Ralph.

Monthly penicillin injections over the course of a decade for people in at-risk groups were recommended to prevent acute RHD. Adherence, however, was challenging, Dr Ralph said.

The study results were published as companion papers on the outcomes and qualitative evaluation of this large community trial in the NT that aimed to improve the delivery of penicillin injections to prevent RHD in at-risk people.

Using evidence-based approaches, activities were supported at primary care centres to help staff deliver more penicillin injections and to track their progress is reaching adherence targets.