Injury prevention and Indigenous Australians

Yesterday I came across a report which estimated the fatal burden of disease and injury for Indigenous Australians. Included were estimates of the magnitude of the fatal burden ‘gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010 report includes fatal burden calculations in terms of years of life lost (YLL). Noteworthy findings include

Injuries and cardiovascular diseases contributed the most fatal burden for Indigenous Australians (22% and 21% respectively), followed by cancer (17%), infant and congenital conditions (10%), gastrointestinal diseases (6%) and endocrine disorders (which includes diabetes) (5%). These disease groups accounted for 82% of all Indigenous YLL in 2010.

Deaths in infants contributed the most to Indigenous YLL. The fatal burden in Indigenous infants was largely due to infant and congenital conditions, which includes causes such as pre-term birth complications, birth trauma and congenital defects.

‘Injuries were the leading cause of fatal burden among Indigenous persons aged 1- 34, after which cardiovascular diseases and cancer were most prominent,’ said Australian Institute of Health and Welfare spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

YLL rates for injuries and cardiovascular diseases were almost 3 times as high in the Indigenous population.

Clearly we need to reduce the injury-related burden for all persons, and for indigenous persons in particular. It is important that we use this information to more forward to achieve that outcome – but, just how do we do this? What are the next steps? How do we start the ball rolling, and then maintain its momentum? I would argue that this is the greatest challenge facing injury prevention researchers and practitioners around the world.

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