The Heart Health Project was developed in partnership between Aboriginal health and social organisations in the Goulburn-Murray region and university departments.
The aims included screening for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, and evaluating community-directed interventions. We describe the development of the Heart Health Project and the results of risk factor screening among employees (n=66) of Aboriginal organisations during 2003-04. Screening identified few new cases of overt hypertension, diabetes or hypercholesterolaemia, but did find a large proportion of the survey sample who smoked, had evidence of periodontal disease or who had “high normal” levels of risk factors at a relatively young age, placing them at risk of developing overt disease. Barriers to diet and exercise behaviours thought to protect against CVD were documented.
While appropriate planning made clinical follow-up relatively straightforward, effective referral of at-risk people to primary prevention programs was more difficult. The barriers to making diet and exercise changes need consideration in designing interventions for primary prevention of CVD, as does the importance of promoting heart health in a culturally relevant way. This can be achieved through community direction but long-term support for partnerships and intervention programs is required.