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Conference Report

Heart of the tropics: delivering evidence-based care for acute coronary syndromes in northern Australia

Submitted: 6 March 2016
Revised: 11 July 2016
Accepted: 29 August 2016
Published: 6 November 2016

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Author(s) : Starmer G, Schrale R.

Citation: Starmer G, Schrale R.  Heart of the tropics: delivering evidence-based care for acute coronary syndromes in northern Australia. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3938. Available: (Accessed 18 October 2017)


Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) are life-threatening medical emergencies that require urgent treatment, posing particular challenges for systems of health care in regional and remote parts of the world characterised by large distances and widely dispersed populations and healthcare facilities. Northern Australia is such an environment. The prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, coronary artery disease and ACS (myocardial infarction and unstable angina) in northern Australia is amongst the highest in Australia. Despite the high burden of disease, appropriate healthcare services to address these important health challenges have been inadequate.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released a Clinical Care Standard for Acute Coronary Syndromes and the National Heart Foundation of Australia has developed an ACS Capabilities Framework, which together define minimum standards of care regardless of the patient’s location. Strategies such as uniform state-wide ACS clinical pathways provide guidance on how evidence-based care can be provided in a range of geographical settings and to all populations, including Indigenous Australians. The continuing evolution of cardiac catheter laboratories in Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Darwin has facilitated improved treatment for ACS in northern Australia, and has supported the development of region-wide, integrated, multidisciplinary pathways of care.

Systems of care in ACS require consideration of the perspectives of the patient (from symptom onset to long-term secondary prevention of further events), the health system (‘dissolving’ traditional regional silos of care to enable a higher critical mass, greater cooperation, better communication and improved efficiency) and healthcare disciplines and services (including ambulance, retrieval, local health centres and local hospitals, tertiary centres, cardiac rehabilitation and general practice).

Key words: acute coronary syndrome, northern Australia, regional systems, system of care.

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