Bettering Aboriginal Heart Health in Western Australia

Investigating Aboriginal heart health to improve the medical system

The Bettering Aboriginal Heart Health WA (BAHHWA) project initially centred on coronary heart disease as we looked at statewide linked data.

Through this analysis, we worked at determining the occurrence, comorbidities and outcomes for Aboriginal people with coronary heart disease, looking at their age, sex and geographic locations.

This focus also included other heart diseases such as atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

Qualitative research was undertaken on the experiences of both the Aboriginal people affected by these illnesses and the health professionals involved in their care.

Through this research, we began to understand the barriers and enablers of quality care provision and ways to promote optimal models of care.

We have been collaborating with a network of cardiovascular disease stakeholders to identify research questions, disseminate results to inform policy and practice, and to produce useful resources for stakeholders to use.

Current research topics within the BAHHWA project include patterns of multi-morbidity in Aboriginal cardiovascular patients, an ecological evaluation of the impact of ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative on heart disease burden, and an analysis of acute coronary syndrome.

Our overall goal is to develop a shared understanding and collaboration with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people (consumers, service providers, policymakers) to develop solutions to reduce the substantial disparities in cardiovascular outcomes experienced by Aboriginal people.

We have received various funding, including a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship (2016-2019); National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellowship (2012-2015); NHMRC project grants (2008-2011, 2012-2015); State Health Research Advisory Council, WA Health (2007-2008); UWA Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives.

The BAHHWA project is led by Dr Sandra Thompson and Dr Judith Katzenellenbogen from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health.


We are working with a number of academics, organisations and government bodies for this project. These include:

  • Dr Frank Sanfilippo, School of Population and Global Health, UWA
  • Emeritus Professor Michael Hobbs, School of Population and Global Health, UWA
  • Professor Matthew Knuiman, School of Population and Global Health, UWA
  • Professor Dawn Bessarab, Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health, UWA
  • Professor Elizabeth Geelhoed, School of Allied Health, UWA
  • Dr Angela Durey, Dental School, UWA
  • Emeritus Professor Joe Hung, Medical School, UWA
  • Professor Peter Thompson, Harry Perkins Institute, UWA
  • Lyn Dimer, Heart Foundation
  • Dr Marianne Wood, Royal Perth Hospital/Aboriginal Health Council of WA
  • Associate Professor Andrew Maiorana, Curtin University
  • Kim Goodman, Health Networks, WA Health
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If you would like to read more about our research, see below:



Contact Dr Sandra Thompson