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Thousands of Indigenous Lives Lost Prematurely


21 April 2015 at 11:00 am
Xavier Smerdon
Around 3,000 Indigenous Australians die prematurely each year, resulting in almost 100,000 years of life lost, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Xavier Smerdon | 21 April 2015 at 11:00 am


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Thousands of Indigenous Lives Lost Prematurely
21 April 2015 at 11:00 am

Around 3,000 Indigenous Australians die prematurely each year, resulting in almost 100,000 years of life lost, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, provides estimates of the fatal burden of disease and injury for Indigenous Australians, as well as estimates of the 'gap' in fatal burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Fatal burden is calculated in terms of years of life lost, or YLL, due to deaths occurring earlier than expected.

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

According to the report 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.

AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman said it was not disease that was causing the largest fatal burden among young Indigenous Australians.

“Injuries were the leading cause of fatal burden among Indigenous persons aged 1- 34, after which cardiovascular diseases and cancer were most prominent,” Dr Al-Yaman said.

Dr Al-Yaman said the rate of fatal burden experienced by Indigenous Australians was 2.6 times the rate of fatal burden experienced by non-Indigenous Australians and that YLL rates for injuries and cardiovascular diseases were almost three times as high in the Indigenous population.

Dr Al-Yaman also said that the diseases for which relative gaps in fatal burden were most pronounced between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations were endocrine disorders and kidney and urinary diseases. YLL rates for Indigenous Australians were eight and seven times the rates for non-Indigenous Australians for these two disease groups respectively.

“Indigenous Australians living in areas with the most socioeconomic disadvantage experienced the highest rates of fatal burden, while those living in areas with the least socioeconomic disadvantage experienced the lowest YLL rates,” she said.

The AIHW said it would release a more comprehensive report on the burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2016, covering fatal and non-fatal burden for specific causes, as well as the burden attributable to selected health risk factors.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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