New data shows rates of rheumatic heart disease are on the rise with 53 per cent of all diagnoses stemming from the Northern Territory.
The startling new evidence from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reinforces the urgent need for immediate on-the-ground action to prevent and eliminate the deadly disease.
The 2018 Northern Territory Australian of the Year and paediatric cardiologist, Dr Bo Reményi, said the preventable disease has been eliminated in most developed countries and most Australian cities, but remains a "devastation" in rural and remote communities.
"This new evidence demonstrates that action is needed now," Dr Reményi said.
"While investment in the development of a vaccine is welcome, we need immediate community-led action on the ground to prevent potentially thousands of more young people catching this deadly disease."
With clear evidence established surrounding what works, Dr Reményi said there is no need to delay taking action.
"It is negligent not to take action now when the evidence exists that more and more children are catching the disease when it can be prevented."
The Northern Territory has been hit hardest hit by rheumatic heart disease with the highest number of cases by far.
The new report shows more than 1,000 new cases of RHD were diagnosed among Indigenous Australians between 2013-2017.
There were 4,259 living RHD cases recorded at the end of 2018, across Australia, with most from the NT.
Mayor West Arnhem Regional Council, Matthew Ryan said additional funding would go a long way to help communities actively find and prevent new cases.
"Here in Maningrida, active case finding, with Indigenous health workers using handheld echo devices, accompanied by health education in traditional languages is a powerful way to change our community and make it stronger in the fight against ARF and RHD," he said.
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