Evaluation of a Community-led Program for Primordial and Primary Prevention of Rheumatic Fever in Remote Northern Australia

Anna P. Ralph, Angela Kelly, Anne Marie Lee, Valerina L. Mungatopi, Segora R. Babui, Nanda Kaji Budhathoki, Vicki Wade, Jessica L.de Dassel, Rosemary Wyber

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Environmental factors including household crowding and inadequate washing facilities underpin recurrent streptococcal infections in childhood that cause acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and subsequent rheumatic heart disease (RHD). No community-based 'primordial'-level interventions to reduce streptococcal infection and ARF rates have been reported from Australia previously. We conducted a study at three Australian Aboriginal communities aiming to reduce infections including skin sores and sore throats, usually caused by Group A Streptococci, and ARF. Data were collected for primary care diagnoses consistent with likely or potential streptococcal infection, relating to ARF or RHD or related to environmental living conditions. Rates of these diagnoses during a one-year Baseline Phase were compared with a three-year Activity Phase. Participants were children or adults receiving penicillin prophylaxis for ARF. Aboriginal community members were trained and employed to share knowledge about ARF prevention, support reporting and repairs of faulty health-hardware including showers and provide healthcare navigation for families focusing on skin sores, sore throat and ARF. We hypothesized that infection-related diagnoses would increase through greater recognition, then decrease. We enrolled 29 participants and their families. Overall infection-related diagnosis rates increased from Baseline (mean rate per-person-year 1.69 [95% CI 1.10-2.28]) to Year One (2.12 [95% CI 1.17-3.07]) then decreased (Year Three: 0.72 [95% CI 0.29-1.15]) but this was not statistically significant (p = 0.064). Annual numbers of first-known ARF decreased, but numbers were small: there were six cases of first-known ARF during Baseline, then five, 1, 0 over the next three years respectively. There was a relationship between household occupancy and numbers (p = 0.018), but not rates (p = 0.447) of infections. This first Australian ARF primordial prevention study provides a feasible model with encouraging findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10215
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2022


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