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Keywords:

  • epidemiology;
  • hypertension;
  • obesity

Aim:  Indigenous people have a two- to tenfold increased risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease. We aimed to determine whether some key risk factors for cardiovascular disease occur more commonly in Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal Australian children.

Methods:  Children were enrolled from primary schools throughout New South Wales, the state with the highest number of Aboriginal people. Associations between ethnicity, gender, birthweight, socio-demographic status and hypertension, obesity, baseline and persistent albuminuria were determined.

Results:  A total of 2266 children (55% Aboriginal) were enrolled. Mean age was 8.9 years (±3.8 years). Obesity (body mass index ≥2 standard deviations) was detected in 7.1%, systolic hypertension (blood pressure >90th percentile) in 7.2%, diastolic hypertension in 5.9%, baseline albuminuria (albumin : creatinine ≥3.4 mg/mmol) in 7.3% and persistent albuminuria in 1.5% with no differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. Hypertension was less common with increasing social disadvantage (trend P < 0.02). Increasing body mass index standard deviation was strongly associated with systolic and diastolic hypertension (both P < 0.0001).

Conclusions:  Many risk factors for cardiovascular disease are already common in young children but not more prevalent in Aboriginal than in non-Aboriginal children. In all children, overweight and obesity have the strongest association with hypertension, but social disadvantage appears protective for hypertension. Our findings suggest that risk for cardiovascular health disparities seen in indigenous adults manifests beyond childhood and that a window of opportunity exists to prevent some of these outcomes.