Improving the Heart Health Story for Aboriginal People in WA (BAHHWA)

Researchers: Dr Sandra Thompson, Dr Judy Katzenellenbogen, Michael Hobbs, Frank Sanfilippo, Elizabeth Geelhoed, Dawn Bessarab, Peter Thompson, Angela Durey, Derrick Lopez, Emma Haynes, Tiew-Hwa Teng and Dr Kaniz Gausia

The Need

Cardiovascular disorders are common and serious health problems in all populations around the world. In Australia, Aboriginal people have much higher rates of cardiovascular disorders than other Australians. In fact, cardiovascular disorders are the single most important cause of the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal people compared with other people in Australia.

 Project Layout

All people are at some risk of developing coronary artery disease, and part of this risk is due to our genetic makeup and beyond anybody’s control. However, the risk is strongly influenced by the society and conditions in which people live. It is clear that the risk is higher among people who experience social inequity (i.e. unfair conditions in which some groups of people have less access to the opportunities, facilities and services that promote good health).

 In order to make a difference to health and help close the Gap, researchers at WACRH in conjunction with other university partners have been engaged in research on:

    • The pattern of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, heart failure and irregular heartbeat in Aboriginal people
    • the inequities that underlie the high risk and poor outcomes of cardiovascular disease among Aboriginal people
    • measuring the disparities in access to health care and identifying where there is a failure to deliver high quality care to Aboriginal people for both primary and secondary prevention quantifying patterns of health care utilisation and costs for Aboriginal cardiovascular patients
    • using qualitative methods and participatory action research to understand and change some of the barriers that Aboriginal people see and experience in accessing health care
    • encourage practitioners and services to adopt a systems and team-based approach to analyse what is needed to improve Aboriginal heart health
    • knowledge exchange to increase knowledge of heart health in Aboriginal people and to facilitate the understanding and readiness to accommodate the needs of Aboriginal people by service providers and policy makers
The Objectives

While the evidence indicates that the health system can perpetuate poor health outcomes for Aboriginal people, there is still much to understand about how the complexities of the health system, multiple comorbidities, socio-economic factors and cultural differences interact. More knowledge is needed of what works well and what needs improvement in the system of care for Aboriginal patients. Thus, fundamental to this project, was evaluating our research translation activities to improve our knowledge of the enablers and barriers to health system change. 

Funding was received from NHMRC Management of coronary heart disease in the Indigenous population in Western Australia: from information to action (2009-2012); Information and Action for Aboriginal Heart Health (2012-2014).


Full project information and related recommendations can be accessed here:





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