Qld election: Call for action on killer disease striking at heart of our regions

Heart Foundation

The Heart Foundation is calling on the next Queensland Government to throw its support behind improving cardiac care to stop the scourge of heart disease plaguing regional and remote areas.

Queensland is home to eight of the nation’s 20 worst hotspots for heart disease deaths, and 11 of the 20 worst for heart-related hospitalisations. Most of these are in regional Queensland.

The Heart Foundation has four key priorities to turn these figures around:

  • Improving cardiac services for regional Queenslanders by continuing the delivery of outreach cardiac services across all regional areas;
  • Ensuring everyone can access cardiac rehabilitation programs by providing face to face group programs or remote delivered programs;
  • Continuing work towards ending the burden of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland; and
  • Boosting funding for the Queensland Cardiac Outcomes Register of heart conditions to improve the safety and quality of cardiac care.

Outreach cardiac services involve a team of heart health professionals visiting country areas to provide patient consultations, follow-ups, and specialised tests. Cardiac rehabilitation is a program of exercise, health education, and social support that helps people recover after a heart event or procedure, stay healthy, and keep out of hospital.

Heart disease is a leading killer in Australia. People living with heart disease are also more vulnerable to experiencing severe complications if infected with COVID-19. On average, 15 people die and 246 are hospitalised for heart disease every day in Queensland.

Another heart condition that is prevalent in Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is RHD, a permanent form of heart damage that requires lifelong care.

Heart Foundation Queensland CEO, Stephen Vines, says investing in preventive health will be vital to keep people healthy and resilient as the state deals with the challenges arising from COVID-19.

Mr Vines said the upcoming election was a critical opportunity to tackle heart health gaps.

Queensland has the second highest age-standardised rate of heart-related hospitalisations in the nation, after the Northern Territory, with Australian Heart Maps data showing our hardest-hit regions are almost all outside the state’s capital (see list below).

“Sadly, Queensland dominates Australia’s heart disease hotspots, and people living in regional and remote areas are faring worse than their big city counterparts,” Mr Vines said.

“Significant disadvantage, coupled with difficulty accessing services, has meant some regional patients are unable to get the medical help they need to diagnose and treat heart conditions.

“All Queenslanders, regardless of where they live, deserve life-saving cardiac services when they need it.

“Increasing cardiac rehab options and improving access to programs state-wide will give patients the best chance of recovering from a heart condition and avoiding going back to hospital.

“It is also vital we continue to invest in reducing the burden of RHD, an insidious disease that stems largely from social disadvantage and mainly affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Mr Vines urged all MPs to join the fight for Queensland hearts in the lead-up to the October 31 poll.

“As we move forward in recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, we are calling on all political parties to commit to working with the Heart Foundation to improve the heart health of all Queenslanders, reduce health inequities and save lives through better cardiac care.”

Heart disease hotspots

Regions with highest age-standardised rates of heart-related hospitalisations, with national ranking:

  • Queensland Outback (2)
  • Wide Bay (4)
  • Ipswich (5)
  • Moreton Bay-North (7)
  • Mackay-Isaac-Whitsundays (9)
  • Logan-Beaudesert (11)
  • Central Queensland (12)
  • Brisbane-North (13)
  • Darling Downs-Maranoa (14)
  • Cairns (15)
  • Townsville (16)

Regions with highest age-standardised rates of heart disease deaths, with national ranking:

  • Queensland Outback (2)
  • Logan-Beaudesert (3)
  • Brisbane-South (6)
  • Townsville (10)
  • Darling Downs-Maranoa (12)
  • Ipswich (13)
  • Moreton Bay-North (17)
  • Wide Bay (20)

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