Heart Foundation welcomes political commitments to funding Heart Health Check

The Heart Foundation welcomes today’s promises by the Federal Government, the Federal Opposition and the Greens to support the introduction of a specialised Heart Health Check for all Australians at risk of the nation’s biggest killer, heart disease.

The Group CEO of the Heart Foundation, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said, “One week ago, the Heart Foundation launched a compelling campaign in partnership with News Corp to remind Australians that heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. Despite significant advances in recent decades, we still lose 51 lives a day to heart disease – and we could not stand by and let that continue.

“We have had an incredible response to our campaign, with almost 140,000 Australians completing our Heart Age Calculator online, and we now also have broad-based political support for a dedicated item number on the Medicare Benefits Schedule for heart health checks.

“We thank all the political leaders concerned for their support for this important cause. This is a remarkable outcome in such a short space of time, but it is also just the beginning. The Heart Foundation will continue working tirelessly on behalf of the Australian community to protect hearts and save lives.”

Routine screening with Heart Health Checks that leads to better treatment for people at risk could prevent 76,500 heart attacks and strokes over the following five years, and 9,100 deaths, said the Heart Foundation’s Chief Medical Adviser, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings.

“We also estimate potential savings to the economy of $1.5 billion over five years – a return of $3 for every $1 invested in the checks,” he said. “This includes savings in terms of hospital stays, as well as savings for families, due to less employment lost.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 18,590 Australians died of heart disease in 2017. This is the equivalent of 51 a day. In the same year, heart attack (a major form of heart disease) claimed 7,813 lives, or 21 each day.

The average cost of a heart attack to an individual and their family over a lifetime is $68,000, including lost income and medical expenses.

“And many people who have had a heart attack never return to their previous full health,” Professor Jennings said. “They might not be able to work full-time or work at all, and they might not be able to resume normal activities such as playing with their grandchildren, or gardening.

“We advise all Australians over 45 to have a heart health check – for Indigenous Australians, the checks should start at 35.”

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