Health risk factors affect the onset and prognosis of a variety of chronic diseases. A wide body of research has demonstrated complex yet robust connections between a number of biomedical and behavioural factors and major chronic diseases and conditions, including the fact that the major chronic diseases share common risk factors (AIHW 2006c). Environmental factors from cultural, socioeconomic and physical domains have also been shown to have a strong association with both disease and ill-health.
The National Chronic Disease Strategy, endorsed by all Health Ministers in 2005, places a strong emphasis on health promotion and risk factor reduction across the entire continuum of chronic disease prevention and care - to prevent the disease itself, where possible, and to prevent progression of the disease and its associated complications and co-morbidities (NHPAC 2006).
The health risk factors presented in this chapter focus on behavioural or lifestyle factors, including smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and overweight/obesity. Associations between these risk factors and other health indicators are also presented. The 2004-05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) provides the most recent data for the majority of the risk factors presented in this chapter. Where possible, information from the 2004-05 National Health Survey (NHS) has also been included in order to provide comparisons between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.