An overview of respiratory disease in Indigenous communities: A comparison to the wider Australian population

David McTaggart

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

David McTaggart
Third Year Medicine (Undergraduate)
James Cook University

David has expanded his knowledge of rural health in Australian and International contexts through medical placements in the Shetland Islands (Scotland), Norfolk Island, and Cavalier (North Dakota). David is the winner of the 2009 North Dakota Bursary for James Cook University.


Aim: The objective of this article is to compare the differences in long term health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations with respect to respiratory disease. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the knowledge presented regarding differences in Indigenous and non-Indigenous health, the epistemological grounds for the study will be considered. Methods: A literature review was conducted. The data for this review was assembled through searching Medline, Informit, PubMed and the Indigenous Healthinfonet for English language peer- reviewed publications containing the keywords: respiratory disease, Indigenous, rural and Queensland. Thirty-two documents were selected. Results: Respiratory disease is distributed disproportionately and occurs with peculiar frequency among Indigenous Australians. Key health indicators such as the disability adjusted life year highlight the inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in terms of health outcomes, although to a much lesser extent than in the past. Conclusions: An innovative approach to public health has seen Indigenous communities become more actively engaged in medical care. Of particular note is the increasing frequency with which Indigenous health workers are being integrated into rural practice to follow up patients and bridge cultural and societal gaps. Environmental antecedents are important contributors to health which may be responsible for the high burden of disease seen in many Indigenous communities. These challenges must be addressed as part of a new public health drive to bring health equality to all Australians.