Defining the gap: a systematic review of the difference in rates of diabetes-related foot complications in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and non-Indigenous Australians
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has an increased risk of developing chronic illnesses including diabetes. Among people with diabetes, foot complications are common and make a significant contribution to the morbidity and mortality associated with this disease. The aim of this review was to systematically evaluate the literature comparing the rates of diabetes related foot complications in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to non-Indigenous Australians.MEDLINE, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library; PUBMED and CINAHL were searched from inception until August 2016. Inclusion criteria were: published cross-sectional or longitudinal studies reporting the prevalence of diabetes related foot complications in both a cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and a cohort of one other Australian population of any age with diabetes. Risk of bias was assessed using the STROBE tool.Eleven studies including a total of 157,892 participants were included. Studies were set in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, primarily in rural and remote areas. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experienced substantially more diabetes related foot complications with the mean age up to 14 years younger than non-Indigenous Australians. Aboriginality was associated with increased risk of peripheral neuropathy, foot ulceration and amputation. In several studies, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians accounted for the vast majority of diabetes related foot complications (up to 91%) while comprising only a small proportion of the regional population. Reporting quality as assessed with the STROBE tool showed underreporting of: methods, sample description and potential sources of bias. There are no data available for some Australian states and for specific types of diabetes related foot complications.Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a 3-6 fold increased likelihood of experiencing a diabetes related foot complication compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Evidence-based, culturally appropriate screening and intervention programs and improved access to effective health care services are required to prevent a widening of the gap in diabetes related foot complications between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.