What has ARDAC found?
The first phase of the ARDAC Study (2002-2007) found that:
- There was no increase in the urinary markers for chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal children
- Risk factors for chronic kidney and heart disease such as overweight and obesity were common amongst both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children
- There were no significant differences for any of the study outcomes (protein and blood in the urine, obesity & high blood pressure), between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children
- This suggests end-stage kidney disease in Aboriginal people may be preventable during early adult life
These results were surprising considering the health differences that exist in adults and suggest that chronic kidney disease may be preventable if appropriate interventions can be developed and implemented during adolescence and early adult life.
The second phase of the ARDAC study (2008-2013) found that:
- Traditional risk factors (high blood pressure, proteinuria and overweight/obesity) for chronic disease are common but not different for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal primary school children; however, as participants enter into adolescence disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants start to appear
- Using BMI results, Aboriginal girls were heavier than non-Aboriginal girls and had higher rates of overweight/obesity
- Overweight or obese Aboriginal girls were more likely to have albuminuria and therefore at greater risk of kidney disease compared to non-Aboriginal girls
- For Aboriginal boys, unlike non-Aboriginal boys, being better off financially didn't protect them from being overweight or obese
The third phase of the ARDAC study (2014-2018) is currently in progress so the results will be analysed on completion of this period. During this phase, most of our participants have moved on from high school and have branched into the community. They are either working, studying or starting their own families, requiring us to change the way we contact and screen our participants. Over the years we have built relationships with local Aboriginal community controlled health services across New South Wales and will continue to work with them to carry out kidney health screenings of our study participants. This final phase of collaboration will deliver the evidence-base required to inform future strategies for the prevention and management of kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
From the commencement of the study it has been common practice to feedback the screening results to the communities after each screening visit. This has been foundational to the success of the study as it gave the communities a feeling of ownership and control over the research process. At the end of each screening trip the ARDAC team compiles a report of the screening results for schools, health organisations and communities. These reports document the schools and communities we have visited and the number of participants screened. They also contain the screening results showing the frequency of abnormalities, such as protein and blood in the urine, high blood pressure and obesity identified during the screening. Copies of these past reports can be viewed below.
Originally the screening was conducted within primary or high schools, so large numbers of students were screened during each 2 yearly visit. The reason no further written reports have been published since 2016 is due to the change in the screening process, from school based mass screening to community based individual screenings. In order to protect the privacy of the individuals involved, the screening results only go to the participant and their health care provider (with their permission) and not to the whole community.