Background: Although lung diseases are a leading cause of premature mortality in Australian Aborigines, little is known about normal lung function in these people.
Aim: To develop models for 'normal' spirometric function in rural Australian Aborigines.
Method: A cross-sectional population-based study of four rural Aboriginal communities was performed in Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia, Australia. We studied 261 children aged seven-19 years and 332 adults aged 20-80 years who were free of symptoms and had no clinical signs of chronic lung disease. The outcome measures were forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC). Multiple linear regression was used to develop models for FEV1 and FVC and comparisons were made with Caucasians and indigenous people from other countries.
Results: The Aboriginal people studied had FEV1 and FVC values that were lower (20% and 30% respectively) than those found in Caucasians of the same height, age and gender. As a consequence, they had relatively high FEV1/FVC ratios. Those studied also had forced expiratory volumes that were lower than those found in African Americans and other indigenous peoples.
Conclusions: Apparently healthy rural Aboriginal people have low forced expiratory volumes when contrasted with Caucasians and indigenous peoples such as African Americans. More research is required to determine if this is 'normal' or a product of the suboptimal environment into which many Aboriginal people are born.