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Asthma in Indigenous Australians: so much yet to do for Indigenous lung health

Christine R Jenkins, Anne B Chang, Leanne M Poulos and Guy B Marks
Med J Aust 2009; 190 (10): 530-531.

Indigenous Australians die of asthma at more than three times the rate of the rest of the nation

The recently released Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring (ACAM) report Asthma in Australia 2008 focuses attention on several important and novel findings about asthma among Indigenous Australians (see Box).1 This is the third report in the 2-yearly series from ACAM, and brings together analyses of routinely collected national data, including data from Australian Bureau of Statistics national health surveys, and current information from published articles. Asthma is clearly identified in the report as a prevalent health problem in the Indigenous population. It is one of the two most common causes of hospitalisation of Indigenous Australians, second only to renal dialysis.2 It is also the second most common self-reported long-term illness among Indigenous Australians, and the mortality rate due to asthma among Indigenous Australians is 3.2 times that of other Australians.1 However, in contrast to the attention given to other medical conditions over-represented among Indigenous Australians, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus, disproportionately little attention is given to respiratory disease, including asthma.

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  • Christine R Jenkins1,2
  • Anne B Chang3,4
  • Leanne M Poulos1
  • Guy B Marks1,5

  • 1 Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Department of Thoracic Medicine, Concord Clinical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT.
  • 4 Queensland Children’s Respiratory Centre and Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.
  • 5 Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, NSW.

Correspondence: lmp@woolcock.org.au

Competing interests:

Leanne Poulos and Guy Marks are authors of the report Asthma in Australia 2008, and Anne Chang is a co-author of the report’s chapter on asthma in Indigenous Australians. Christine Jenkins is a member of the Australian System for Monitoring Asthma Steering Committee; the Department of Health and Ageing pays for her air travel if meetings of this committee are in Canberra.

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  • 2. Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework report 2008 — summary. Canberra: AHMAC, 2008.
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  • 8. Chang AB, Shannon C, O’Neil MC, et al. Asthma management in Indigenous children of a remote community using an Indigenous health model. J Paediatr Child Health 2000; 36: 249-251.
  • 9. Chang AB, Grimwood K, Maguire G, et al. Management of bronchiectasis and chronic suppurative lung disease in Indigenous children and adults from rural and remote Australian communities [position statement]. Med J Aust 2008; 189: 386-393. <MJA full text>
  • 10. Wright RJ, Subramanian SV. Advancing a multilevel framework for epidemiological research on asthma disparities. Chest 2007; 132 (5 Suppl): 757S-769S.
  • 11. Bailey EJ, Kruske SG, Morris PS, et al. Culture-specific programs for children and adults from minority groups who have asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; (2): CD006580.
  • 12. Respiratory and sleep health in Indigenous Australians. A position statement commissioned by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Australasian Sleep Association. http://www.thoracic.org.au (accessed Mar 2009).

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