July 6, 2016

New online Indigenous tool to help tackle lung disease

Lung Foundation Australia and the Queensland Government have joined forces to tackle the vital issue of improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ lung health, with Indigenous peoples almost twice as likely to die from a lung-related condition than non-Indigenous Australians.

With the mortality rate for respiratory disease in Indigenous Australians 1.9 times that of non-Indigenous Australians,[1] it is more important than ever to try and address the endemic challenge of helping the Indigenous community to breathe well .

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said that’s why, together with the Queensland Government’s Indigenous Respiratory Outreach Care Program, they created the first Australia-wide screening tool specifically for the Indigenous community, narrated by former Olympian and Lung Ambassador, Cathy Freeman.

“It is a sad fact that chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in Indigenous males and lung and related cancers are the third leading cause of death in Indigenous females1,” Mrs Allan said.

“That’s why we’re launching this new tool to encourage the Indigenous community to start thinking about their lungs by taking our interactive, eight question checklist,” she said.

“This is just the first step, there are no tests or blowing into machines involved, it is a simple two minute checklist which encourages people to think about their lung health and recognise symptoms and risk and catch disease early.”

Deception Bay Elder Aunty Barb has never smoked and has lived with chronic lung diseases asthma and sleep apnoea herself since diagnosis in 1991 and recently been diagnosed with COPD (emphysema).

Aunty Barb said this checklist is a great tool to encourage my mob to check out their symptoms and risk factors without the pressure of having to talk to a doctor.

“I have had breathing problems for most of my life,” she said.

“I’d lose my voice, have chest pains, wheezing and coughing which made it quite hard to do everyday tasks and my jobs.

“I’d recommend anyone who has symptoms like breathlessness or coughing that won’t go away go and see their doctor.

“Early diagnosis is key to getting better outcomes however many of my mob are scared to go and see a doctor and talk about their symptoms.

“They don’t want to be taken away from their community, which often happens if they need to visit a hospital, and many ignore their symptoms preferring to wait and hope they disappear.

“That’s why this tool will be an important part in encouraging them to start thinking, and more importantly, talking about their lungs.”

Respiratory Physician from The Prince Charles Hospital Prof Ian Yang said early diagnosis was vital in trying to turn around the impact of lung disease in Indigenous communities.

“Symptoms occur gradually over the years and can be mistaken for signs of ageing or lack of fitness,” Prof Yang said.

Lung Foundation Australia encourages everyone to take the Indigenous Lung Health Checklist. It only takes a few minutes, and the simple questions will help to recognise symptoms of lung disease and the need to act promptly.


Background Information

The Indigenous Lung Health Checklist will be launched at an event as part of NAIDOC Week on Wednesday 6 July at 10am in the Dr Mark O’Brien Auditorium, Education Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital.

We encourage everyone to try the Indigenous Lung Health Checklist at www.lungfoundation.com.au – where you can also find a version for the non-Indigenous community. You can download a PDF version in several different languages including Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and Hindi.

It only takes a few minutes, and the eight simple questions will help to recognise symptoms of lung disease and the need to act promptly.

The Indigenous Lung Health Checklist is narrated by Lung Foundation Australia’s Ambassador and Olympic Legend Cathy Freeman so it is broadly accessible to all communities.

A letter which provides a summary of the answers provided can be downloaded at the end and taken to their health professional.


[1]  http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/health-facts/overviews/mortality