Indigenous children in the Northern Territory are three times more likely to suffer rheumatic heart disease (RHD) compared to children in other remote areas, says Australian researchers.
Lead author of the study, Kathryn Roberts from the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, examined 32 communities across the Northern Territory's Top End, Central Australia, Far North Queensland including the Torres Strait, and Western Australia's Kimberley region.
The researchers found that the prevalence of RHD was high in indigenous children and comparable to figures from developing countries, but was even worse in the Top End.
The risk factors for RHD are poor socio-economic status and overcrowding housing, said the researchers.
"Extreme disadvantage would provide a plausible explanation for the higher prevalence of RHD in the Top End," the researchers wrote.