THIRTY-four hospitals in Western Australia are participating in the nation’s most extensive study into rheumatic heart disease in pregnancy.
Taking place over four years, the Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and Pregnancy study will use both qualitative and quantitative methods to improve outcomes for women with RHD in pregnancy.
The research will be breaking new ground, according to Geraldine Vaughan from the University of New South Wales’ School of Medicine.
“Most of the guidelines and information we have on rheumatic heart disease is either information studies on non-pregnant adults or women with congenital heart disease,” she says.
“A big part of what we’re doing is raising awareness about rheumatic heart disease.”
The study will have a particular impact on improving health outcomes for indigenous women.
The abstract highlights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in remote regions of Australia have among the world’s highest documented rates of RHD.
The paper states that in 2008, more than 2.5 per cent of 25–34 year-olds and more than three per cent of 35–44 year-olds of Aboriginal descent in the Northern Territory had rheumatic heart disease.
This is despite the disease being preventable.
“This is a disease of inequity,” Ms Vaughan says.
“For anyone with rheumatic heart disease, if you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the impact is likely to be greater.
“So you’re looking at things like the mortality [from RHD] rate is higher among Indigenous people.”
The quantitative part of the study will be utilising the framework of the Australasian Maternity Outcomes Surveillance System (AMOSS).
AMOSS is a national research and surveillance system focused on studying a range of serious or rare conditions in pregnancy.
More than 300 hospitals across Australia and New Zealand are involved in AMOSS, giving the RHD In Pregnancy study a solid candidate pool.
“One of the strengths of this study is we use this AMOSS system which is providing us an infrastructure for surveillance and data collection,” she says.
“That existing system is very strong and we have almost 300 maternity units across Australia and New Zealand [participating in AMOSS].”
The qualitative portion of the study is being undertaken in the Northern Territory and New South Wales.
The study will be completed in 2015.