The evidence that rheumatic heart disease control programs in Australia are making an impact

Ingrid Stacey, Anna Ralph, Jessica de Dassel, Lee Nedkoff, Vicki Wade, Carl Francia, Rosemary Wyber, Kevin Murray, Joseph Hung, Judith Katzenellenbogen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) comprises heart-valve damage caused by acute rheumatic fever (ARF). The Australian Government Rheumatic Fever Strategy funds RHD Control Programs to support detection and management of ARF and RHD. We assessed epidemiological changes during the years of RHD Control Program operation. Methods: Linked RHD register, hospital and death data from four Australian jurisdictions were used to measure ARF/RHD outcomes between 2010 and 2017, including: 2-year progression to severe RHD/death; ARF recurrence; secondary prophylaxis delivery and earlier disease detection. Results: Delivery of secondary prophylaxis improved from 53% median proportion of days covered (95%CI: 46-61%, 2010) to 70% (95%CI: 71-68%, 2017). Secondary prophylaxis adherence protected against progression to severe RHD/death (hazard ratio 0.2, 95% CI 0.1-0.8). Other measures of program effectiveness (ARF recurrences, progression to severe RHD/death) remained stable. ARF case numbers and concurrent ARF/RHD diagnoses increased. Conclusions: RHD Control Programs have contributed to major success in the management of ARF/RHD through increased delivery of secondary prevention yet ARF case numbers, not impacted by secondary prophylaxis and sensitive to increased awareness/surveillance, increased. Implications for public health: RHD Control Programs have a major role in delivering cost-effective RHD prevention. Sustained investment is needed but with greatly strengthened primordial and primary prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100071
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


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