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Deadly Heart Trek to Alice Springs

8 April 2024

We have recently returned from the Deadly Heart Trek to Mparntwe (Alice Springs) and are so grateful for the invitation to return to this special place to listen, educate, and provide critical early diagnoses and treatment for rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Together with the local health workers and schools, this strengths-based work supplemented current services which are underfunded and under-resourced, improving access to health services and building community resilience and self-determination.
Over two weeks, paediatric cardiologists Dr Gavin Wheaton and Dr Bo Remenyi together with our Aboriginal guides led two teams of nine multi-disciplinary doctors, health workers, Congress RHD nurses and team members from The Snow Foundation and Heart Foundation.
In addition, three Aboriginal Health Practitioners from Aboriginal Health Clinics in the Tiwi Islands and Galiwin’ku joined the team – Bethanie, Cassie and Roy – to expand their rheumatic heart disease knowledge and echocardiogram skills through the NEARER Scan program (Menzies).
We were fortunate to visit 13 schools, 7 town camps, 2 youth centres and 6 Congress clinics.
Over 3000 children and families were educated on RHD and skin health. Results from the Survey post-visit showed that: 100% responded YES to ‘Would you like Trek to return’ and ‘Would recommend the program to other communities’.

In total:
• 1205 Children’s hearts screened
• 1157 healthy hearts
• 19 New RHD cases diagnosed and treated

Of the Aboriginal children/youth screened:
• 836 hearts screened
• 820 healthy hearts
• 16 new RHD cases diagnosed and treated
• 12 known RHD cases
• 12 new congenital heart disease diagnoses
• 170 skin infections from 1017 children – 16.7% with infection
• 3.4% had RHD

Anything over 1% of RHD diagnoses in a community is considered a high burden, though positively the rate is lower than our previous Treks to remote communities.

Thank you to partners: Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, NT Rheumatic Heart Disease Control Program, the local paediatric and cardiology staff from Alice Springs Hospital, the schools, town camps, youth centres and communities in Alice Springs, AMSANT, Tangentyere Council, Department of Education NT, NT Health, NT Cardiac, the Deadly Heart Trek delivery teams, Children’s Ground, HeartKids, Telethon Kids, Heart Foundation Australia, Humpty Dumpty Foundation, GE Healthcare, Deadly Science, VioletCo, Take Heart.
Thank you also to lead partner The Snow Foundation, a philanthropic organisation providing project management, logistics, community engagement, funding, and communications for the Deadly Heart Trek.
Every one of these Treks is a huge learning experience, and we will continue to listen to, and learn from leaders and communities. We will continue talking with politicians and key stakeholders to increase awareness and drive action for more funding and attention to #endRHD.

Their visit was exceptionally well executed and having such a remarkable group of health professionals, who are the best in their field at our college on the day was remarkable. We are so grateful we responded positively to their initial email and took up their offer to have students screened. Thank you DHT.

Here’s some of the media coverage: National Indigenous Times, National Indigenous Times, NT News, 8CCC, SBS Radio and ABC TV Darwin.

We’d love you to follow and share our social media – Facebook and Instagram

Thank you from The Deadly Hearts Board: Vicki Wade – Aboriginal cultural advisor, Dr Rob Justo, Dr Bo Remenyi and Dr Gavin Wheaton paediatric cardiologists, Karen Iles – Aboriginal social justice lawyer, Georgina Byron – CEO The Snow Foundation.