Risk factors for ill health in a remote desert dwelling aboriginal community in Western Australia

M. Gracey, R. Spargo, P. Smith, R.M. Smith, Valerie Burke, J. Beilby, Lawrence Beilin, C. Chin

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    Background: Living in small, isolated groups may promote health for Aborigines if traditional lifestyles are followed, but overall health risks in such communities are inadequately documented.Aim: To document health status of a remote Aboriginal community with reference to nutrition, cardiovascular risks, renal disease and infections and to identify areas where health might be improved.Methods: All residents of a small community in the Great Sandy Desert underwent medical examinations, anthropometry and measurement of blood pressure. Investigations included cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, insulin, creatinine, lipoprotein (a), apolipoprotein E phenotype, angiotensin-converting enzyme genotype, urinalysis, stool microscopy (children), liver function tests and full blood examination.Results: Children (n=26) were undernourished while 14% of adults (n=51) were underweight, 22% overweight and 40% of women and 13% of men were obese with central obesity in 90% of women and 48% of men. Fifteen per cent of the group were hypertensive. Insulin levels were increased in 55% of subjects, total cholesterol in 21% and triglycerides in 56%, while HDL was decreased in 78%. Angiotensin-converting enzyme and apolipoprotein E typing and lipoprotein (a) did not suggest increased cardiovascular risk. Proteinuria was present in 39% of subjects, haematuria in 49% and definite or possible urinary tract infections in 30%. Faecal parasites were prevalent and a history of infections, including sexually transmitted diseases, was common.Conclusions: Increased cardiovascular risk, nutritional disorders, renal disease and infections are major problems in this community which had relocated several years previously from a mission environment closer to western influences, including alcohol.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)171-179
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1996

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