Variability in disease burden and management of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in two regions of tropical Australia

Intern Med J. 2013 Apr;43(4):386-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-5994.2012.02838.x.


Background: Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) contribute to Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander health disadvantage. At the time of this study, specialist ARF/RHD care in the Kimberley region of Western Australia was delivered by a broad range of providers. In contrast, in Far North Queensland (FNQ), a single-provider model was used as part of a coordinated RHD control programme.

Aims: To review ARF/RHD management in the Kimberley and FNQ to ascertain whether differing models of service delivery are associated with different disease burden and patient care.

Methods: An audit of ARF/RHD management. Classification and clinical management data were abstracted from health records, specialist letters, echocardiograms and regional registers using a standardised data collection tool.

Results: Four hundred and seven patients were identified, with 99% being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. ARF without RHD was seen in 0.4% of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander residents and RHD in 1.1%. The prevalence of RHD was similar in both regions but with more severe disease in the Kimberley. More FNQ RHD patients had specialist review within recommended time frames (67% vs 45%, χ(2) , P < 0.001). Of patients recommended benzathine penicillin secondary prophylaxis, 17.7% received ≥80% of scheduled doses in the preceding 12 months. Prescription and delivery of secondary prophylaxis was greater in FNQ.

Conclusions: FNQ's single-provider model of specialist care and centralised RHD control programme were associated with improved patient care and may partly account for the fewer cases of severe disease and reduced surgical procedures and other interventions observed in this region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Queensland / ethnology
  • Rheumatic Fever / diagnosis
  • Rheumatic Fever / ethnology
  • Rheumatic Fever / therapy
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease / diagnosis
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease / ethnology*
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease / therapy*
  • Western Australia / ethnology
  • Young Adult