Online test can prevent heart disease deaths: AHPC

Widespread use of a simple online assessment tool could prevent thousands of Australians dying from heart disease, according to a new policy paper launched by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University.

Launched in Canberra, the paper Heart Health: the first step to getting Australia’s health on track calls for an online screening tool known as Absolute Cardiovascular Risk Assessment (ACVR) to be embedded into routine GP visits for everyone over 45.

CVD statistics & recommendations

One Australian dies every 12 minutes from cardiovascular disease (CVD) – 40% prematurely.

The paper recommends a national investment in health screening and outlines a national primary-care strategy to prevent thousands dying prematurely from CVD, which is one of Australia’s biggest killers.

AHPC Director, Rosemary Calder, said most people were unaware they were at risk of CVD.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death accounting for 10% of all deaths in people aged under 75,” she said. “Almost two in three Australians are living with modifiable risk factors for chronic disease.”

Embedding ACVR into routine GPs visits is the single most effective strategy for chronic disease prevention – saving lives, reducing health expenditure, slashing hospital admissions and significantly improving quality of life, Professor Calder said.

The online question and answer form, filled in by the doctor with their patient, highlights overall risk.

AHPC’s Heart Health paper recommends the initiative be supported by the Medicare Benefits Schedule and promoted through the community and Primary Health Networks to achieve 90% coverage of people, aged 45 and over, within five years.

Professor Calder said

“ACVR is a major opportunity for the Federal Government to invest in effective, international standard prevention.”

“New Zealand has had a national implementation strategy for five years and the results to date are impressive.”

People with CVD are also at risk of dementia, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance member and Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Sharon McGowan, said regular health checks delivered by GPs would ensure people at high risk were identified and managed.

“Chronic diseases are Australia’s greatest health challenge and leading causes of illness, disability and death,’’ Ms McGowan said.

“Much of this burden could be prevented through early detection and intervention.”

Professor Calder said primary care played an important role in preventing chronic diseases and is the key to reducing premature mortality from heart disease.

About Heart Health

Heart Health has been developed in collaboration with leading national clinical and policy experts and in consultation with the Royal Australian College of General Practice and the National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance (NVDPA) which includes:

  • the Stroke Foundation
  • the National Heart Foundation
  • Kidney Health Australia
  • Diabetes Australia.

It follows the AHPC’s policy roadmap Getting Australia’s Health on Track, 2016, which aims to significantly reduce preventable illness and disability. 

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