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1.  Voting with their feet - predictors of discharge against medical advice in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ischaemic heart disease inpatients in Western Australia: an analytic study using data linkage 
Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) from hospital is associated with adverse outcomes and is considered an indicator of the responsiveness of hospitals to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the indigenous people of Australia. We investigated demographic and clinical factors that predict DAMA in patients experiencing their first-ever inpatient admission for ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The study focuses particularly on the differences in the risk of DAMA in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients while also investigating other factors in their own right.
A cross-sectional analytical study was undertaken using linked hospital and mortality data with complete coverage of Western Australia. Participants included all first-ever IHD inpatients (aged 25–79 years) admitted between 2005 and 2009, selected after a 15-year clearance period and who were discharged alive. The main outcome measure was DAMA as reflected in the hospital record.
Multiple logistic regression was used to determine disparities in DAMA between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients, adjusting for a range of demographic and clinical factors, including comorbidity based on 5-year hospitalization history. A series of additional models were run on subgroups of the cohort to refine the analysis. Ethics approval was granted by the WA Human Research and the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committees.
Aboriginal patients comprised 4.3% of the cohort of 37,304 IHD patients and 23% of the 224 DAMAs. Emergency admission (OR=5.9, 95% CI 2.9-12.2), alcohol admission history (alcohol-related OR=2.9, 95% CI 2.0-4.2) and Aboriginality (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5-3.5) were the strongest predictors of DAMA in the multivariate model. Patients living in rural areas while attending non-metropolitan hospitals had a 50% higher risk of DAMA than those living and hospitalised in metropolitan areas. There was consistency in the ORs for Aboriginality in the different multivariate models using restricted sub-cohorts and different Aboriginal identifiers. Sex, IHD diagnosis type and co-morbidity scores imparted different risks in Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal patients.
Understanding the risks and reasons for DAMA is important for health system policy and proactive management of those at risk of DAMA. Improving care to prevent DAMA should target unplanned admissions, rural hospitals and young men, Aboriginal people and those with alcohol and mental health comorbidities.
PMCID: PMC3765140  PMID: 23962275
Discharge against medical advice; Aboriginal health; Ischaemic Heart Disease; Linked data; Australia
2.  Can linked emergency department data help assess the out-of-hospital burden of acute lower respiratory infections? A population-based cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:703.
There is a lack of data on the out-of-hospital burden of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in developed countries. Administrative datasets from emergency departments (ED) may assist in addressing this.
We undertook a retrospective population-based study of ED presentations for respiratory-related reasons linked to birth data from 245,249 singleton live births in Western Australia. ED presentation rates <9 years of age were calculated for different diagnoses and predictors of ED presentation <5 years were assessed by multiple logistic regression.
ED data from metropolitan WA, representing 178,810 births were available for analysis. From 35,136 presentations, 18,582 (52.9%) had an International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code for ALRI and 434 had a symptom code directly relating to an ALRI ICD code. A further 9600 presentations had a non-specific diagnosis. From the combined 19,016 ALRI presentations, the highest rates were in non-Aboriginal children aged 6–11 months (81.1/1000 child-years) and Aboriginal children aged 1–5 months (314.8/1000). Croup and bronchiolitis accounted for the majority of ALRI ED presentations. Of Aboriginal births, 14.2% presented at least once to ED before age 5 years compared to 6.5% of non-Aboriginal births. Male sex and maternal age <20 years for Aboriginal children and 20–29 years for non-Aboriginal children were the strongest predictors of presentation to ED with ALRI.
ED data can give an insight into the out-of-hospital burden of ALRI. Presentation rates to ED for ALRI were high, but are minimum estimates due to current limitations of the ED datasets. Recommendations for improvement of these data are provided. Despite these limitations, ALRI, in particular bronchiolitis and croup are important causes of presentation to paediatric EDs.
PMCID: PMC3519642  PMID: 22928805
Emergency department; Outpatient; Acute lower respiratory infection; Data linkage, Children
3.  Absent otoacoustic emissions predict otitis media in young Aboriginal children: A birth cohort study in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in an arid zone of Western Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2008;8:32.
Otitis media (OM) is the most common paediatric illness for which antibiotics are prescribed. In Australian Aboriginal children OM is frequently asymptomatic and starts at a younger age, is more common and more likely to result in hearing loss than in non-Aboriginal children. Absent transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) may predict subsequent risk of OM.
100 Aboriginal and 180 non-Aboriginal children in a semi-arid zone of Western Australia were followed regularly from birth to age 2 years. Tympanometry was conducted at routine field follow-up from age 3 months. Routine clinical examination by an ENT specialist was to be done 3 times and hearing assessment by an audiologist twice. TEOAEs were measured at ages <1 and 1–2 months. Cox proportional hazards model was used to investigate the association between absent TEOAEs and subsequent risk of OM.
At routine ENT specialist clinics, OM was detected in 55% of 184 examinations in Aboriginal children and 26% of 392 examinations in non-Aboriginal children; peak prevalence was 72% at age 5–9 months in Aboriginal children and 40% at 10–14 months in non-Aboriginal children. Moderate-severe hearing loss was present in 32% of 47 Aboriginal children and 7% of 120 non-Aboriginal children aged 12 months or more.
TEOAE responses were present in 90% (46/51) of Aboriginal children and 99% (120/121) of non-Aboriginal children aged <1 month and in 62% (21/34) and 93% (108/116), respectively, in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children at age 1–2 months. Aboriginal children who failed TEOAE at age 1–2 months were 2.6 times more likely to develop OM subsequently than those who passed.
Overall prevalence of type B tympanograms at field follow-up was 50% (n = 78) in Aboriginal children and 20% (n = 95) in non-Aboriginal children.
The burden of middle ear disease is high in all children, but particularly in Aboriginal children, one-third of whom suffer from moderate-severe hearing loss. In view of the frequently silent nature of OM, every opportunity must be taken to screen for OM. Measurement of TEOAEs at age 1–2 months to identify children at risk of developing OM should be evaluated in a routine health service setting.
PMCID: PMC2538518  PMID: 18755038
4.  Association between early bacterial carriage and otitis media in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in a semi-arid area of Western Australia: a cohort study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:366.
Streptococcus pneumoniae (Pnc), nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) and Moraxella catarrhalis (Mcat) are the most important bacterial pathogens associated with otitis media (OM). Previous studies have suggested that early upper respiratory tract (URT) bacterial carriage may increase risk of subsequent OM. We investigated associations between early onset of URT bacterial carriage and subsequent diagnosis of OM in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder region located in a semi-arid zone of Western Australia.
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children who had nasopharyngeal aspirates collected at age 1- < 3 months and at least one clinical examination for OM by an ear, nose and throat specialist before age 2 years were included in this analysis. Tympanometry to detect middle ear effusion was also performed at 2- to 6-monthly scheduled field visits from age 3 months. Multivariate regression models were used to investigate the relationship between early carriage and subsequent diagnosis of OM controlling for environmental factors.
Carriage rates of Pnc, NTHi and Mcat at age 1- < 3 months were 45%, 29% and 48%, respectively, in 66 Aboriginal children and 14%, 5% and 18% in 146 non-Aboriginal children. OM was diagnosed at least once in 71% of Aboriginal children and 43% of non-Aboriginal children. After controlling for age, sex, presence of other bacteria and environmental factors, early nasopharyngeal carriage of NTHi increased the risk of subsequent OM (odds ratio = 3.70, 95% CI 1.22-11.23) in Aboriginal children, while Mcat increased the risk of OM in non-Aboriginal children (odds ratio = 2.63, 95% CI 1.32-5.23). Early carriage of Pnc was not associated with increased risk of OM.
Early NTHi carriage in Aboriginal children and Mcat in non-Aboriginal children is associated with increased risk of OM independent of environmental factors. In addition to addressing environmental risk factors for carriage such as overcrowding and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, early administration of pneumococcal-Haemophilus influenzae D protein conjugate vaccine to reduce bacterial carriage in infants, may be beneficial for Aboriginal children; such an approach is currently being evaluated in Australia.
PMCID: PMC3546895  PMID: 23256870
Otitis media; Aboriginal; Streptococcus pneumoniae; Haemophilus influenzae; Moraxella catarrhalis
5.  Morbidity due to acute lower respiratory infection in children with birth defects: a total population-based linked data study 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:80.
Acute lower respiratory infections (ALRIs) are leading causes of hospitalisation in children. Birth defects occur in 5% of live births in Western Australia (WA). The association between birth defects and ALRI hospitalisation is unknown.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 245,249 singleton births in WA (1996-2005). Population-based hospitalisation data were linked to the WA Register of Developmental Anomalies to investigate ALRI hospitalisations in children with and without birth defects. We used negative binomial regression to estimate associations between birth defects and number of ALRI hospitalisations before age 2 years, adjusting for known risk factors.
Overall, 9% of non-Aboriginal children and 37% of Aboriginal children with birth defects had at least one ALRI admission before age 2 years. Aboriginal children (IRR 2.3, 95% CI: 1.9-2.8) and non-Aboriginal children (IRR 2.0, 95% CI: 1.8-2.2) with birth defects had higher rates of hospitalisation for an ALRI than children with no birth defects. Rates of ALRI hospitalisation varied by type of defect but were increased for all major birth defects categories, the highest rate being for children with Down syndrome (IRR 8.0, 95% CI: 5.6-11.5). The rate of ALRI hospitalisation was 3 times greater in children with multiple birth defects than in those with isolated defects.
Children with birth defects experience higher rates of hospitalisation for ALRIs before age 2 years than children with no birth defects. Optimal vaccination coverage and immunoprophylaxis for specific categories of birth defects would assist in reducing hospitalisation rates for ALRI.
PMCID: PMC3987821  PMID: 24661413
Acute lower respiratory infections; Birth defects; Aboriginal Australian children; Linked population health data; Hospitalisations
6.  Disparities experienced by Aboriginal compared to non-Aboriginal metropolitan Western Australians in receiving coronary angiography following acute ischaemic heart disease: the impact of age and comorbidities 
Aboriginal Australians have a substantially higher frequency of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) events than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, together with a higher prevalence of comorbidities. The pattern of health service provision for IHD suggests inequitable delivery of important diagnostic procedures. Published data on disparities in IHD management among Aboriginal Australians are conflicting, and the role of comorbidities has not been adequately delineated. We compared the profiles of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients in the metropolitan area undergoing emergency IHD admissions at Western Australian metropolitan hospitals, and investigated the determinants of receiving coronary angiography.
Person-linked administrative hospital and mortality records were used to identify 28-day survivors of IHD emergency admission events (n =20,816) commencing at metropolitan hospitals in 2005–09. The outcome measure was receipt of angiography. The Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal risk ratio (RR) was estimated from a multivariable Poisson log-linear regression model with allowance for multiple IHD events in individuals. The subgroup of myocardial infarction (MI) events was modelled separately.
Compared with their non-Aboriginal counterparts, Aboriginal IHD patients were younger and more likely to have comorbidities. In the age- and sex-adjusted model, Aboriginal patients were less likely than others to receive angiography (RRIHD 0.77, 95% CI 0.72-0.83; RRMI 0.81, 95% CI 0.75-0.87) but in the full multivariable model this disparity was accounted for by comorbidities as well as IHD category and MI subtype, and private health insurance (RRIHD 0.95, 95% CI 0.89-1.01; RRMI 0.94, 95% CI 0.88-1.01). When stratified by age groups, this disparity was not significant in the 25–54 year age group (RRMI 0.95, 95% CI 0.88-1.02) but was significant in the 55–84 year age group (RRMI 0.88, 95% CI 0.77-0.99).
The disproportionate under-management of older Aboriginal IHD patients is of particular concern. Regardless of age, the disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians in receiving angiography for acute IHD in a metropolitan setting is mediated substantially by comorbidities. This constellation of health problems is a ‘double-whammy’ for Aboriginal people, predisposing them to IHD and also adversely impacting on their receipt of angiography. Further research should investigate how older age and comorbidities influence clinical decision making in this context.
PMCID: PMC4207898  PMID: 25331586
Aboriginal; Oceanic ancestry group; Australia; Ischaemic heart disease; Myocardial infarction; Healthcare Disparities; Hospitals; urban; Coronary angiography; Age factors; Comorbidity
7.  Mortality after admission for acute myocardial infarction in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in New South Wales, Australia: a multilevel data linkage study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:281.
Heart disease is a leading cause of the gap in burden of disease between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Our study investigated short- and long-term mortality after admission for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people admitted with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) to public hospitals in New South Wales, Australia, and examined the impact of the hospital of admission on outcomes.
Admission records were linked to mortality records for 60047 patients aged 25–84 years admitted with a diagnosis of AMI between July 2001 and December 2008. Multilevel logistic regression was used to estimate adjusted odds ratios (AOR) for 30- and 365-day all-cause mortality.
Aboriginal patients admitted with an AMI were younger than non-Aboriginal patients, and more likely to be admitted to lower volume, remote hospitals without on-site angiography. Adjusting for age, sex, year and hospital, Aboriginal patients had a similar 30-day mortality risk to non-Aboriginal patients (AOR: 1.07; 95% CI 0.83-1.37) but a higher risk of dying within 365 days (AOR: 1.34; 95% CI 1.10-1.63). The latter difference did not persist after adjustment for comorbid conditions (AOR: 1.12; 95% CI 0.91-1.38). Patients admitted to more remote hospitals, those with lower patient volume and those without on-site angiography had increased risk of short and long-term mortality regardless of Aboriginal status.
Improving access to larger hospitals and those with specialist cardiac facilities could improve outcomes following AMI for all patients. However, major efforts to boost primary and secondary prevention of AMI are required to reduce the mortality gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
PMCID: PMC3481361  PMID: 22490109
Hospital performance; Acute myocardial infarction; Ischaemic heart disease; Aboriginal health; Health outcomes; Multilevel modelling; Data linkage
8.  Invasive pneumococcal disease in New South Wales, Australia: reporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status improves epidemiology 
The aim of this work was to determine the feasibility of improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status recording for notifiable diseases using all Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD) notifications in a regional area of New South Wales, Australia.
In Australia people with IPD are nearly always admitted to hospital and their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status is recorded. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status was determined for IPD notifications by referring to the routine hospital admission data in a regional area of New South Wales, Australia.
There were 234 notifications in the regional area of Hunter New England during the period 2007–2009. Initially, 168 (72%) notifications had Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status recorded. After referring to the routine hospital admission data, the recorded status increased to 232 (99%). Updating the surveillance data required less than five minutes per notification.
Referring to routine hospital admission data proved a useful and time-efficient surveillance strategy to increase the proportion of notifications with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. These data can then be used to better understand the current epidemiology of IPD. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–4 years have a two- to threefold higher rate of invasive pneumococcal disease than non-Aboriginal children, thus high levels of timely pneumococcal immunization coverage remain important for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
PMCID: PMC3729061  PMID: 23908887
9.  Inequalities in ventilation tube insertion procedures between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in New South Wales, Australia: a data linkage study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(11):e003807.
Australian Aboriginal children experience earlier, more frequent and more severe otitis media, particularly in remote communities, than non-Aboriginal children. Insertion of ventilation tubes is the main surgical procedure for otitis media. Our aim was to quantify inequalities in ventilation tube insertion (VTI) procedures between Australian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, and to explore the influence of birth characteristics, socioeconomic background and geographical remoteness on this inequality.
Retrospective cohort study using linked hospital and mortality data from July 2000 to December 2008.
Setting and participants
A whole-of-population cohort of 653 550 children (16 831 Aboriginal and 636 719 non-Aboriginal) born in a New South Wales hospital between 1 July 2000 and 31 December 2007 was included in the analysis.
Outcome measure
First VTI procedure.
VTI rates were lower in Aboriginal compared with non-Aboriginal children (incidence rate (IR), 4.3/1000 person-years; 95% CI 3.8 to 4.8 vs IR 5.8/1000 person-years; 95% CI 5.7 to 5.8). Overall, Aboriginal children were 28% less likely than non-Aboriginal children to have ventilation tubes inserted (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted rate ratios (RRs) 0.72; 95% CI 0.64 to 0.80). After adjusting additionally for geographical remoteness, Aboriginal children were 19% less likely to have ventilation tubes inserted (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted RR 0.81; 95% CI 0.73 to 0.91). After adjusting separately for private patient/health insurance status and area socioeconomic status, there was no significant difference (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted RR 0.96; 95% CI 0.86 to 1.08 and RR 0.93; 95% CI 0.83 to 1.04, respectively). In the fully adjusted model, there were no significant differences in VTI rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children (RR 1.06; 95% CI 0.94 to 1.19).
Despite a much higher prevalence of otitis media, Aboriginal children were less likely to receive VTI procedures than their non-Aboriginal counterparts; this inequality was largely explained by differences in socioeconomic status and geographical remoteness.
PMCID: PMC3845074  PMID: 24285631
Epidemiology; Public Health
10.  A review of life expectancy and infant mortality estimations for Australian Aboriginal people 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:1.
Significant variation exists in published Aboriginal mortality and life expectancy (LE) estimates due to differing and evolving methodologies required to correct for inadequate recording of Aboriginality in death data, under-counting of Aboriginal people in population censuses, and unexplained growth in the Aboriginal population attributed to changes in the propensity of individuals to identify as Aboriginal at population censuses.
The objective of this paper is to analyse variation in reported Australian Aboriginal mortality in terms of LE and infant mortality rates (IMR), compared with all Australians.
Published data for Aboriginal LE and IMR were obtained and analysed for data quality and method of estimation. Trends in reported LE and IMR estimates were assessed and compared with those in the entire Australian population.
LE estimates derived from different methodologies vary by as much as 7.2 years for the same comparison period. Indirect methods for estimating Aboriginal LE have produced LE estimates sensitive to small changes in underlying assumptions, some of which are subject to circular reasoning. Most indirect methods appear to under-estimate Aboriginal LE. Estimated LE gaps between Aboriginal people and the overall Australian population have varied between 11 and 20 years.
Latest mortality estimates, based on linking census and death data, are likely to over-estimate Aboriginal LE.
Temporal LE changes by each methodology indicate that Aboriginal LE has improved at rates similar to the Australian population overall. Consequently the gap in LE between Aboriginal people and the total Australian population appears to be unchanged since the early 1980s, and at the end of the first decade of the 21st century remains at least 11–12 years.
In contrast, focussing on the 1990–2010 period Aboriginal IMR declined steeply over 2001–08, from more than 12 to around 8 deaths per 1,000 live births, the same level as Australia overall in 1993–95. The IMR gap between Aboriginal people and the total Australian population, while still unacceptable, has declined considerably, from over 8 before 2000 to around 4 per 1,000 live births by 2008.
Regardless of estimation method used, mortality and LE gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are substantial, but remain difficult to estimate accurately.
PMCID: PMC3893414  PMID: 24383435
11.  Under-ascertainment of Aboriginality in records of cardiovascular disease in hospital morbidity and mortality data in Western Australia: a record linkage study 
Measuring the real burden of cardiovascular disease in Australian Aboriginals is complicated by under-identification of Aboriginality in administrative health data collections. Accurate data is essential to measure Australia's progress in its efforts to intervene to improve health outcomes of Australian Aboriginals. We estimated the under-ascertainment of Aboriginal status in linked morbidity and mortality databases in patients hospitalised with cardiovascular disease.
Persons with public hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease in Western Australia during 2000-2005 (and their 20-year admission history) or who subsequently died were identified from linkage data. The Aboriginal status flag in all records for a given individual was variously used to determine their ethnicity (index positive, and in all records both majority positive or ever positive) and stratified by region, age and gender. The index admission was the baseline comparator.
Index cases comprised 62,692 individuals who shared a total of 778,714 hospital admissions over 20 years, of which 19,809 subsequently died. There were 3,060 (4.9%) persons identified as Aboriginal on index admission. An additional 83 (2.7%) Aboriginal cases were identified through death records, increasing to 3.7% when cases with a positive Aboriginal identifier in the majority (≥50%) of previous hospital admissions over twenty years were added and by 20.8% when those with a positive flag in any record over 20 years were incorporated. These results equated to underestimating Aboriginal status in unlinked index admission by 2.6%, 3.5% and 17.2%, respectively. Deaths classified as Aboriginal in official records would underestimate total Aboriginal deaths by 26.8% (95% Confidence Interval 24.1 to 29.6%).
Combining Aboriginal determinations in morbidity and official death records increases ascertainment of unlinked cardiovascular morbidity in Western Australian Aboriginals. Under-identification of Aboriginal status is high in death records.
PMCID: PMC3024993  PMID: 21192809
12.  Transfers to metropolitan hospitals and coronary angiography for rural Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal patients with acute ischaemic heart disease in Western Australia 
Aboriginal people have a disproportionately higher incidence rate of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) than non-Aboriginal people. The findings on Aboriginal disparity in receiving coronary artery procedures are inconclusive. We describe the profile and transfers of IHD patients admitted to rural hospitals as emergency admissions and investigate determinants of transfers and coronary angiography.
Person-linked hospital and mortality records were used to identify 28-day survivors of IHD events commencing at rural hospitals in Western Australia. Outcome measures were receipt of coronary angiography, transfer to a metropolitan hospital, and coronary angiography if transferred to a metropolitan hospital.
Compared to non-Aboriginal patients, Aboriginal patients with IHD were more likely to be younger, have more co-morbidities, reside remotely, but less likely to have private insurance. After adjusting for demographic characteristics, Aboriginal people with MI were less likely to be transferred to a metropolitan hospital, and if transferred were less likely to receive coronary angiography. These disparities were not significant after adjusting for comorbidities and private insurance. In the full multivariate model age, comorbidities and private insurance were adversely associated with transfer to a metropolitan hospital and coronary angiography.
Disparity in receiving coronary angiography following emergency admission for IHD to rural hospitals is mediated through the lower likelihood of being transferred to metropolitan hospitals where this procedure is performed. The likelihood of a transfer is increased if the patient has private insurance, however, rural Aboriginal people have a lower rate of private insurance than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Health practitioners and policy makers can continue to claim that they treat Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike based upon clinical indications, as private insurance is acting as a filter to reduce rural residents accessing interventional cardiology. If health practitioners and policy makers are truly committed to reducing health disparities, they must reflect upon the broader systems in which disparity is perpetuated and work towards a systems improvement.
PMCID: PMC4021447  PMID: 24886321
Oceanic ancestry group; Ischaemic heart disease; Myocardial infarction; Healthcare Disparities; Rural Hospitals; Health Insurance; Coronary angiography
13.  Disparities in cataract surgery between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in New South Wales, Australia 
To investigate variation in rates of cataract surgery in New South Wales, Australia by area of residence for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults.
Observational data linkage study of hospital admissions.
Two hundred eighty-nine thousand six hundred forty-six New South Wales residents aged 30 years and over admitted to New South Wales hospitals for 444 551 cataract surgery procedures between 2001 and 2008.
Analysis of linked routinely collected hospital data using direct standardization and multilevel negative binomial regression models accounting for clustering of individuals within Statistical Local Areas.
Main Outcome Measures
Age-standardized cataract surgery rates and adjusted rate ratios.
Aboriginal people had lower rates of cataract procedures than non-Aboriginal people of the same age and sex, living in the same Statistical Local Area (adjusted rate ratio 0.71, 95% confidence interval 0.68–0.75). There was significant variation in cataract surgery rates across Statistical Local Areas for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, with the disparity greater in major cities and less disadvantaged areas. Rates of surgery were lower for Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal people in most Statistical Local Areas, but in a few, the rates were similar or higher for Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal people in New South Wales received less cataract surgery than non-Aboriginal people, despite evidence of higher cataract rates. This disparity was greatest in urban and wealthier areas. Higher rates of surgery for Aboriginal people observed in some specific locations are likely to reflect the availability of public ophthalmology services, targeted services for Aboriginal people and higher demand for surgery in these populations.
PMCID: PMC4233999  PMID: 24299196
Aboriginal health; cataract surgery; data linkage; disadvantage
14.  The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH): study protocol 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:287.
Aboriginal Australians have a life expectancy more than ten years less than that of non-Aboriginal Australians, reflecting their disproportionate burden of both communicable and non-communicable disease throughout the lifespan. Little is known about the health and health trajectories of Aboriginal children and, although the majority of Aboriginal people live in urban areas, data are particularly sparse in relation to children living in urban areas.
The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) is a cohort study of Aboriginal children aged 0-17 years, from urban and large regional centers in New South Wales, Australia. SEARCH focuses on Aboriginal community identified health priorities of: injury; otitis media; vaccine-preventable conditions; mental health problems; developmental delay; obesity; and risk factors for chronic disease. Parents/caregivers and their children are invited to participate in SEARCH at the time of presentation to one of the four participating Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations at Mount Druitt, Campbelltown, Wagga Wagga and Newcastle. Questionnaire data are obtained from parents/caregivers and children, along with signed permission for follow-up through repeat data collection and data linkage. All children have their height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure measured and complete audiometry, otoscopy/pneumatic otoscopy and tympanometry. Children aged 1-7 years have speech and language assessed and their parents/caregivers complete the Parental Evaluation of Developmental Status. The Study aims to recruit 1700 children by the end of 2010 and to secure resources for long term follow up. From November 2008 to March 2010, 1010 children had joined the study. From those 446 children with complete data entry, participating children ranged in age from 2 weeks to 17 years old, with 144 aged 0-3, 147 aged 4-7, 75 aged 8-10 and 79 aged 11-17. 55% were male and 45% female.
SEARCH is built on strong community partnerships, under Aboriginal leadership, and addresses community priorities relating to a number of under-researched areas. SEARCH will provide a unique long-term resource to investigate the causes and trajectories of health and illness in urban Aboriginal children and to identify potential targets for interventions to improve health.
PMCID: PMC2896939  PMID: 20507632
15.  Diversity of Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae Strains Colonizing Australian Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Children 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(5):1352-1357.
Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) strains are responsible for respiratory-related infections which cause a significant burden of disease in Australian children. We previously identified a disparity in NTHI culture-defined carriage rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children (42% versus 11%). The aim of this study was to use molecular techniques to accurately determine the true NTHI carriage rates (excluding other culture-identical Haemophilus spp.) and assess whether the NTHI strain diversity correlates with the disparity in NTHI carriage rates. NTHI isolates were cultured from 595 nasopharyngeal aspirates collected longitudinally from asymptomatic Aboriginal (n = 81) and non-Aboriginal (n = 76) children aged 0 to 2 years living in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder region, Western Australia. NTHI-specific 16S rRNA gene PCR and PCR ribotyping were conducted on these isolates. Confirmation of NTHI by 16S rRNA gene PCR corrected the NTHI carriage rates from 42% to 36% in Aboriginal children and from 11% to 9% in non-Aboriginal children. A total of 75 different NTHI ribotypes were identified, with 51% unique to Aboriginal children and 13% unique to non-Aboriginal children (P < 0.0001). The strain richness (proportion of different NTHI ribotypes) was similar for Aboriginal (19%, 65/346) and non-Aboriginal children (19%, 37/192) (P = 0.909). Persistent carriage of the same ribotype was rare in the two groups, but colonization with multiple NTHI strains was more common in Aboriginal children than in non-Aboriginal children. True NTHI carriage was less than that estimated by culture. The Aboriginal children were more likely to carry unique and multiple NTHI strains, which may contribute to the chronicity of NTHI colonization and subsequent disease.
PMCID: PMC3993713  PMID: 24501028
16.  Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Human Rhinovirus Infection in Healthy Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Western Australian Children 
Human rhinovirus (HRV) species C (HRV-C) have been associated with frequent and severe acute lower respiratory infections and asthma in hospitalized children. The prevalence of HRV-C among healthy children and whether this varies with ethnicity is unknown.
to describe the prevalence of HRV species and their associations with demographic, environmental and socioeconomic factors in healthy aboriginal and non-aboriginal children.
respiratory viruses and bacteria were identified in 1006 nasopharyngeal aspirates collected from a cohort of 79 aboriginal and 88 non-aboriginal Western Australian children before 2 years of age. HRV-positive nasopharyngeal aspirates were typed for HRV species and genotypes. Longitudinal growth models incorporating generalized estimating equations were used to investigate associations between HRV species and potential risk factors.
Of the 159 typed specimens, we identified 83 (52.2%) human rhinovirus species a (HrV-A), 26 (16.4%), human rhinovirus species B and 50 (31.4%) HrV-C. HRV-C was associated with upper respiratory symptoms in aboriginal (odds ratio, 3.77; 95% confidence interval:1.05–13.55) and non-aboriginal children (odds ratio, 5.85; 95% confidence interval: 2.33–14.66). HRV-A and HRV-C were associated with carriage of respiratory bacteria. In aboriginal children, HRV-A was more common in the summer and in those whose mothers were employed prior to delivery. In non-aboriginal children, day-care attendance and exclusive breast-feeding at age 6–8 weeks were associated with detection of HRV-A, and gestational smoking with detection of HRV-C.
Factors associated with the presence of HRV differ between aboriginal and non-aboriginal children. In contrast to HRV-A, HRV-C is associated with upper respiratory symptoms suggesting that HRV-C is likely to be implicated in respiratory illness.
PMCID: PMC3375341  PMID: 22481423
human rhinovirus; aboriginal; bacterial association; environmental risk factors; upper respiratory symptoms; seasonality
17.  Mortality in an Aboriginal Medical Service (Redfern) cohort 
Published estimates of Aboriginal mortality and life expectancy (LE) for the eastern Australian states are derived from demographic modelling techniques to estimate the population and extent of under-recording of Aboriginality in death registration. No reliable empirical information on Aboriginal mortality and LE exists for New South Wales (NSW), the most populous Australian state in which 29% of Aboriginal people reside.
This paper estimates mortality and LE in a large, mainly metropolitan cohort of Aboriginal clients from the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) Redfern, Sydney, NSW.
Identifying information from patient records accrued by the AMS Redfern since 1980 of definitely Aboriginal clients, without distinction between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (n=24,035), was extracted and linked to the National Death Index (NDI) at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Age-specific mortality rates and LEs for each sex were estimated using the AMS patient population as the denominator, discounted for deaths. Directly age-standardised mortality and LEs were estimated for 1995–1999, 2000–2004 and 2005–2009, along with 95% confidence intervals. Comparisons were made with other estimates of Aboriginal mortality and LE and with the total Australian population.
Mortality declined in the AMS Redfern cohort over 1995–2009, and the decline occurred mostly in the ≤44 year age range. Male LE at birth was estimated to be 64.4 years (95%CI:62.6-66.1) in 1995–1999, 65.6 years (95%CI:64.1-67.1) in 2000–2004, and 67.6 years (95%CI:65.9-69.2) for 2005–2009. In females, these LE estimates were 69.6 (95%CI:68.0-71.2), 71.1 (95%CI:69.9-72.4), and 71.4 (95%CI:70.0-72.8) years. LE in the AMS cohort was 11 years lower for males and 12 years lower for females than corresponding all-Australia LEs for the same periods. These were similar to estimates for Australian Aboriginal people overall for the same period by the Aboriginal Burden of Disease for 2009, using the General Growth Balance (GGB) model approach, and by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for 2005–2007. LE in the AMS cohort was somewhat lower than these estimates for NSW Aboriginal people, and higher than ABS 2005–2007 estimates for Aboriginal people from Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia.
The AMS Redfern cohort has provided the first empirically based estimates of mortality and LE trends in a large sample of Aboriginal people from NSW.
PMCID: PMC3602118  PMID: 23391275
18.  A retrospective population-based cohort study identifying target areas for prevention of acute lower respiratory infections in children 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:757.
Acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) are a major cause of hospitalisation in young children. Many factors can lead to increased risk of ALRI in children and predispose a child to hospitalisation, but population attributable fractions for different risk factors and how these fractions differ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children is unknown. This study investigates population attributable fractions of known infant and maternal risk factors for ALRI to inform prevention strategies that target high-risk groups or particular risk factors.
A retrospective population-based data linkage study of 245,249 singleton births in Western Australia. Population attributable fractions of known maternal and infant risk factors for hospitalisation with ALRI between 1996 and 2005 were calculated using multiple logistic regression.
The overall ALRI hospitalisation rate was 16.1/1,000 person-years for non-Aboriginal children and 93.0/1,000 for Aboriginal children. Male gender, being born in autumn, gestational age <33 weeks, and multiple previous pregnancies were significant risk factors for ALRI in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. In non-Aboriginal children, maternal smoking during pregnancy accounted for 6.3% (95%CI: 5.0, 7.6) of the population attributable fraction for ALRI, being born in autumn accounted for 12.3% (10.8, 13.8), being born to a mother with three or more previous pregnancies accounted for 15.4% (14.1, 17.0) and delivery by elective caesarean accounted for 4.1% (2.8, 5.3). In Aboriginal children, being born to a mother with three or more previous pregnancies accounted for 16.5% (11.8, 20.9), but remote location at birth accounted for 11.7% (8.5, 14.8), maternal age <20 years accounted for 11.2% (7.8, 14.5), and being in the most disadvantaged socio-economic group accounted for 18.4% (-6.5, 37.4) of the population attributable fraction.
The population attributable fractions estimated in this study should help in guiding public health interventions to prevent ALRI. A key risk factor for all children is maternal smoking during pregnancy, and multiple previous pregnancies and autumnal births are important high-risk groups. Specific key target areas are reducing elective caesareans in non-Aboriginal women and reducing teenage pregnancies and improving access to services and living conditions for the Aboriginal population.
PMCID: PMC3004840  PMID: 21138593
19.  What factors contribute to positive early childhood health and development in Australian Aboriginal children? Protocol for a population-based cohort study using linked administrative data (The Seeding Success Study) 
BMJ Open  2015;5(5):e007898.
Australian Aboriginal children are more likely than non-Aboriginal children to have developmental vulnerability at school entry that tracks through to poorer literacy and numeracy outcomes and multiple social and health disadvantages in later life. Empirical evidence identifying the key drivers of positive early childhood development in Aboriginal children, and supportive features of local communities and early childhood service provision, are lacking.
Methods and analysis
The study population will be identified via linkage of Australian Early Development Census data to perinatal and birth registration data sets. It will include an almost complete population of children who started their first year of full-time school in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, in 2009 and 2012. Early childhood health and development trajectories for these children will be constructed via linkage to a range of administrative data sets relating to birth outcomes, congenital conditions, hospital admissions, emergency department presentations, receipt of ambulatory mental healthcare services, use of general practitioner services, contact with child protection and out-of-home care services, receipt of income assistance and fact of death. Using multilevel modelling techniques, we will quantify the contributions of individual-level and area-level factors to variation in early childhood development outcomes in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. Additionally, we will evaluate the impact of two government programmes that aim to address early childhood disadvantage, the NSW Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service and the Brighter Futures Program. These evaluations will use propensity score matching methods and multilevel modelling.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethical approval has been obtained for this study. Dissemination mechanisms include engagement of stakeholders (including representatives from Aboriginal community controlled organisations, policy agencies, service providers) through a reference group, and writing of summary reports for policy and community audiences in parallel with scientific papers.
PMCID: PMC4442193  PMID: 25986640
20.  Increasing rates of surgical treatment and preventing comorbidities may increase breast cancer survival for Aboriginal women 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:163.
Lower breast cancer survival has been reported for Australian Aboriginal women compared to non-Aboriginal women, however the reasons for this disparity have not been fully explored. We compared the surgical treatment and survival of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women diagnosed with breast cancer in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.
We analysed NSW cancer registry records of breast cancers diagnosed in 2001–2007, linked to hospital inpatient episodes and deaths. We used unconditional logistic regression to compare the odds of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women receiving surgical treatment. Breast cancer-specific survival was examined using cumulative mortality curves and Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Of the 27 850 eligible women, 288 (1.03%) identified as Aboriginal. The Aboriginal women were younger and more likely to have advanced spread of disease when diagnosed than non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women were less likely than non-Aboriginal women to receive surgical treatment (odds ratio 0.59, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.42-0.86). The five-year crude breast cancer-specific mortality was 6.1% higher for Aboriginal women (17.7%, 95% CI 12.9-23.2) compared with non-Aboriginal women (11.6%, 95% CI 11.2-12.0). After accounting for differences in age at diagnosis, year of diagnosis, spread of disease and surgical treatment received the risk of death from breast cancer was 39% higher in Aboriginal women (HR 1.39, 95% CI 1.01-1.86). Finally after also accounting for differences in comorbidities, socioeconomic disadvantage and place of residence the hazard ratio was reduced to 1.30 (95% CI 0.94-1.75).
Preventing comorbidities and increasing rates of surgical treatment may increase breast cancer survival for NSW Aboriginal women.
PMCID: PMC3975643  PMID: 24606675
Australia/epidemiology; Breast Neoplasms/epidemiology; Female health services; Indigenous; Survival rate
21.  Aboriginal Families Study: a population-based study keeping community and policy goals in mind right from the start 
Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are between two to five times more likely to die in childbirth than non-Aboriginal women, and two to three times more likely to have a low birthweight infant. Babies with a low birthweight are more likely to have chronic health problems in adult life. Currently, there is limited research evidence regarding effective interventions to inform new initiatives to strengthen antenatal care for Aboriginal families.
The Aboriginal Families Study is a cross sectional population-based study investigating the views and experiences of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women having an Aboriginal baby in the state of South Australia over a 2-year period. The primary aims are to compare the experiences and views of women attending standard models of antenatal care with those accessing care via Aboriginal Family Birthing Program services which include Aboriginal Maternal Infant Care (AMIC) Workers as members of the clinical team; to assess factors associated with early and continuing engagement with antenatal care; and to use the information to inform strengthening of services for Aboriginal families. Women living in urban, regional and remote areas of South Australia have been invited to take part in the study by completing a structured interview or, if preferred, a self-administered questionnaire, when their baby is between 4–12 months old.
Having a baby is an important life event in all families and in all cultures. How supported women feel during pregnancy, how women and families are welcomed by services, how safe they feel coming in to hospitals to give birth, and what happens to families during a hospital stay and in the early months after the birth of a new baby are important social determinants of maternal, newborn and child health outcomes. The Aboriginal Families Study builds on consultation with Aboriginal communities across South Australia. The project has been implemented with guidance from an Aboriginal Advisory Group keeping community and policy goals in mind right from the start. The results of the study will provide a unique resource to inform quality improvement and strengthening of services for Aboriginal families.
PMCID: PMC3689616  PMID: 23767813
Antenatal care; Health inequalities; Indigenous health; Maternal health; Participatory research; Perinatal health outcomes
22.  Prevalence of asthma and risk factors for asthma-like symptoms in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in the northern territories of Canada 
Few studies have investigated the prevalence and risk factors of asthma in Canadian Aboriginal children.
To determine the prevalence of asthma and asthma-like symptoms, as well as the risk factors for asthma-like symptoms, in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in the northern territories of Canada.
Data on 2404 children, aged between 0 and 11 years, who participated in the North component of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth were used in the present study. A child was considered to have an asthma-like symptom if there was a report of ever having had asthma, asthma attacks or wheeze in the past 12 months.
After excluding 59 children with missing information about race, 1399 children (59.7%) were of Aboriginal ancestry. The prevalence of asthma was significantly lower (P<0.05) in Aboriginal children (5.7%) than non-Aboriginal children (10.0%), while the prevalence of wheeze was similar between Aboriginal (15.0%) and non-Aboriginal (14.5%) children. In Aboriginal children, infants and toddlers had a significantly greater prevalence of asthma-like symptoms (30.0%) than preschool-aged children (21.5%) and school-aged children (11.5%). Childhood allergy and a mother’s daily smoking habit were significant risk factors for asthma-like symptoms in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. In addition, infants and toddlers were at increased risk of asthma-like symptoms in Aboriginal children. In analyses restricted to specific outcomes, a mother’s daily smoking habit was a significant risk factor for current wheeze in Aboriginal children and for ever having had asthma in non-Aboriginal children.
Asthma prevalence appears to be lower in Aboriginal children than in non-Aboriginal children. The association between daily maternal smoking and asthma-like symptoms, which has been mainly reported for children living in urban areas, was observed in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in northern and remote communities in Canada.
PMCID: PMC2677938  PMID: 18437256
Aboriginals; Asthma; Children; Remote area; Risk factors; Smoking
23.  Access to health care among status Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease 
Ethnic disparities in access to health care and health outcomes are well documented. It is unclear whether similar differences exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease in Canada. We determined whether access to care differed between status Aboriginal people (Aboriginal people registered under the federal Indian Act) and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease.
We identified 106 511 non-Aboriginal and 1182 Aboriginal patients with chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2). We compared outcomes, including hospital admissions, that may have been preventable with appropriate outpatient care (ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions) as well as use of specialist services, including visits to nephrologists and general internists.
Aboriginal people were almost twice as likely as non-Aboriginal people to be admitted to hospital for an ambulatory-care–sensitive condition (rate ratio 1.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.46–2.13). Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate < 30 mL/min/1.73 m2) were 43% less likely than non-Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease to visit a nephrologist (hazard ratio 0.57, 95% CI 0.39–0.83). There was no difference in the likelihood of visiting a general internist (hazard ratio 1.00, 95% CI 0.83–1.21).
Increased rates of hospital admissions for ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions and a reduced likelihood of nephrology visits suggest potential inequities in care among status Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease. The extent to which this may contribute to the higher rate of kidney failure in this population requires further exploration.
PMCID: PMC2572655  PMID: 18981441
24.  Incidence and Prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease among Aboriginal Peoples in Alberta, Canada 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0123204.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major respiratory disorder, largely caused by smoking that has been linked with large health inequalities worldwide. There are important gaps in our knowledge about how COPD affects Aboriginal peoples. This retrospective cohort study assessed the epidemiology of COPD in a cohort of Aboriginal peoples relative to a non-Aboriginal cohort.
We used linkage of administrative health databases in Alberta (Canada) from April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2010 to compare the annual prevalence, and the incidence rates of COPD between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cohorts aged 35 years and older. Poisson regression models adjusted the analysis for important sociodemographic factors.
Compared to a non-Aboriginal cohort, prevalence estimates of COPD from 2002 to 2010 were 2.3 to 2.4 times greater among Registered First Nations peoples, followed by the Inuit (1.86 to 2.10 times higher) and the Métis (1.59 to 1.67 times higher). All Aboriginal peoples had significantly higher COPD incidence rates than the non-Aboriginal group (incidence rate ratio [IRR]: 2.1; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.97, 2.27). COPD incidence rates were higher in First Nation peoples (IRR: 2.37; 95% CI: 2.19, 2.56) followed by Inuit (IRR: 1.92; 95% CI: 1.64, 2.25) and Métis (IRR: 1.49; 95% CI: 1.32, 1.69) groups.
We found a high burden of COPD among Aboriginal peoples living in Alberta; a province with the third largest Aboriginal population in Canada. Altogether, the three Aboriginal peoples groups have higher prevalence and incidence of COPD compared to a non-Aboriginal cohort. The condition affects the three Aboriginal groups differently; Registered First Nations and Inuit have the highest burden of COPD. Reasons for these differences should be further explored within a framework of social determinants of health to help designing interventions that effectively influence modifiable COPD risk factors in each of the Aboriginal groups.
PMCID: PMC4395205  PMID: 25875817
25.  Breastfeeding Duration and Residential Isolation amid Aboriginal Children in Western Australia 
Nutrients  2012;4(12):2020-2034.
Objectives: To examine factors that impact on breastfeeding duration among Western Australian Aboriginal children. We hypothesised that Aboriginal children living in remote locations in Western Australia were breastfed for longer than those living in metropolitan locations. Methods: A population-based cross-sectional survey was conducted from 2000 to 2002 in urban, rural and remote settings across Western Australia. Cross-tabulations and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed, using survey weights to produce unbiased estimates for the population of Aboriginal children. Data on demographic, maternal and infant characteristics were collected from 3932 Aboriginal birth mothers about their children aged 0–17 years (representing 22,100 Aboriginal children in Western Australia). Results: 71% of Aboriginal children were breastfed for three months or more. Accounting for other factors, there was a strong gradient for breastfeeding duration by remoteness, with Aboriginal children living in areas of moderate isolation being 3.2 times more likely to be breastfed for three months or more (p < 0.001) compared to children in metropolitan Perth. Those in areas of extreme isolation were 8.6 times more likely to be breastfed for three months or longer (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Greater residential isolation a protective factor linked to longer breastfeeding duration for Aboriginal children in our West Australian cohort.
PMCID: PMC3546620  PMID: 23363997
breastfeeding duration; Australian Aboriginal children; isolation

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