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MEDIA RELEASE - Regional Council calls for action on rheumatic heart disease

07 September 2018

West Arnhem Regional Council Mayor Matthew Ryan is seeking urgent action from the Northern Territory Government to address the current crisis of rheumatic heart disease in remote Indigenous communities.

The Mayor’s plea comes about following the recent study by Menzies School of Health Research which revealed children in the West Arnhem Land community of Maningrida and its homelands suffer the highest known rates of rheumatic heart disease in the world.

The Menzies School tested more than 400 children from the remote community and found that one in 20 of them suffered from the disease - a condition which is entirely preventable. 

Mayor Ryan said while there are many factors involved, more funding and an increase in medical services to Maningrida and its homelands are vital to overcoming this devastating issue.

“Apart from the 2500 people in Maningrida, there are between 400 to 500 people spread out across 32 homelands and 100 houses. And, these homelands are between one and a half hours to three hours’ drive away from Maningrida,” Mayor Ryan said.

With many of these families without transportation and the wet season stopping access to the community, people living in homelands are unable to access basic health services.

Mayor Ryan, who is a long-term resident of Maningrida, said the local organisations, including Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation and the Maningrida Clinic, need to be visiting homelands more and work in a coordinated effort in terms of service delivery, basic medical check-ups and delivering medicine.

This week, the West Arnhem Regional Council passed a resolution for an urgent special meeting of the Maningrida Local Authority be held later this month, and Council invites stakeholders from Maningrida to the meeting to discuss what can be done about this crisis.

“The results of the Menzies study is proof that urgent action is needed. As a local council we can only do so much to deal with this crisis, but if all levels of government come together and put their cards on the table we can turn this situation around,” Mayor Ryan said.