Diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are two major contributors to the ‘Indigenous Health Gap’. Early detection and management of risk factors can prevent or delay the onset of clinically significant chronic disease.
This cross-sectional study examines the prevalence of risk factors for chronic disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Australians aged 15 to 34 years, and the provision of preventive health care.
Data were collected by the Audit and Best Practice for Chronic Disease National Research Partnership. The audit included medical records (n=3800) of young Indigenous people aged 15 to 34 years, who had attended one of 93 primary health centres around Australia in the 24 months prior to the audit period (2010 to 2012).
Components of preventive health care included measurement of body mass index (BMI), blood glucose level (BGL), blood pressure (BP), and smoking status.
Of those in whom BMI was recorded (n=1245, 33%), 51% were overweight or obese (BMI≥25kg/m2; 634/1245). Of these overweight/obese subjects 43% were recorded as receiving a brief intervention for overweight/obesity, and 12% were recorded as receiving referral for weight management and support.
Of the subjects in whom BGL was recorded (n=2313, 61%), 40% had a BGL≥5.5mmol/L, and 18% of those had a recorded management plan for this.
Two thirds of those with smoking status recorded were smokers (1305/1984, 66%). Only 8% of those with BP recorded (n=3212, 85%) were hypertensive (BP>140/90).
Young Indigenous people experience a high prevalence of obesity, elevated blood glucose levels, and smoking, key modifiable risk factors for chronic disease. Implementation of targeted preventive health care strategies in the 15 to 34-year-old age group may reduce the burden of disease in Indigenous Australians in later life.