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Indigenous heart health a concern

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INDIGENOUS people in the Grafton-Coffs Harbour region are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised for a heart-related condition than non-indigenous people, according to new research.

The report released by the Australian Heart Foundation found the ratio gap between indigenous and non-indigenous in hospitalisation for heart-related conditions was 2.2, is narrower than the national average (2.6), and just slightly above the NSW state average (2.1).

The Grafton-Coffs Harbour region includes the Local Government Areas of Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca.

The Heart Foundation's health equity manager Jane Potter said the ratio gap was a cause for concern.

"We cannot be complacent about the rates of heart disease being experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as heart disease is responsible for around one quarter of the gap in life expectancy compared to non-Indigenous Australians," Ms Potter said.

Ms Potter said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were suffering the most.

"If people are living in the same region, with the same level of access to services, then we've got to ask the question - why are the health outcomes so different?" Ms Potter said.

The Heart Foundation said for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there is a historical distrust of mainstream health services.

"This can mean that many will delay seeking medical help at their local clinic (if they have one) in time to prevent being hospitalised. They can also discharge themselves early against medical advice because they are so anxious about being in hospital, beginning a cycle of poor outcomes and repeat admissions."

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