Reducing coronary heart disease in the Australian Coalfields: Evaluation of a 10-year community intervention

Patrick Mcelduff, Nick Higginbotham, Gaynor Heading, Patrick McElduff, Annette Dobson, Richard Heller

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    Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death in Australia with the Coalfields district of New South Wales having one of the country's highest rates. Identification of the Coalfields epidemic in the 1970's led to the formation of a community awareness program in the late 1980's (the healthy heart support group) followed by a more intense community action program in 1990, the Coalfields Healthy Heartbeat (CHHB). CHHB is a coalition of community members, local government officers, health workers and University researchers. We evaluate the CHHB program, examining both the nature and sustainability of heart health activities undertaken, as well as trends in risk factor levels and rates of coronary events in the Coalfields in comparison with nearby local government areas. Process data reveal difficulties mobilising the community as a whole; activities had to be selected for interested subgroups such as families of heart disease patients, school children, retired people and women concerned with family nutrition and body maintenance. Outcome data show a significantly larger reduction in case fatality for Coalfields men (although nonfatal heart attacks did not decline) while changes in risk factors levels were comparable with surrounding areas. We explain positive responses to the CHHB by schools, heart attack survivors and women interested in body maintenance in terms of the meaning these subgroups find in health promotion discourses based on their embodied experiences. When faced with a threat to one's identity, health discourse suddenly becomes meaningful along with the regimens for health improvement. General public disinterest in heart health promotion is examined in the context of historical patterns of outsiders criticising the lifestyle of miners, an orientation toward communal rather than individual responsibility for health (i.e. community 'owned' emergency services and hospitals) and anger about risks from environmental hazards imposed by industrialists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)683-692
    Number of pages9
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999


    • Australia
    • Coal miners
    • Community action
    • Heart disease


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