Latest heart disease research presented

The latest research in heart disease prevention from The George Institute for Global Health, using a variety of approaches such as salt reduction, e-health and streamlining hospital processes, was presented at a community seminar as part of Sydney Research’s inaugural research week.

Sydney Research, based in the Sydney Local Health District, is one of the most prestigious research hubs in the state. A collaboration of 16 hospitals, medical research institutes, including The George Institute (TGI), and educational facilities, Sydney Research is one of eight research hubs being established in NSW to focus on ensuring laboratory discoveries are translated into therapies which benefit patients at the bedside.

Associate Professor Meg Jardine, who provided an overview of TGI’s growth from four founding researchers in Sydney 15 years ago to more than 400 researchers and staff in four main offices around the world, commented that one of TGI’s strengths was that many researchers were also clinicians or worked closely with clinicians, allowing a strong focus on work that would directly benefit patients.

Dr Jacqui Webster presented an overview of the importance of salt reduction to prevent heart disease. “Why salt? High salt intake causes a rise in blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.” She highlighted AWASH, a salt collaboration that had increased Government and industry action to reduce salt. She pointed out that FoodSwitch, a free phone app to help shoppers choose healthier options, had resulted in more than 450,000 downloads, was being recommended as part of the school curriculum and was changing shopper habits. A global food monitoring programme set up by TGI researchers was already enabling comparison of salt levels in food between countries, between companies and also food types. Becoming a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Population Salt Reduction enabled collaboration with world experts to support countries to meet the new salt reduction targets of 30 per cent by 2025.

Professor Julie Redfern talked about several trials that focus on identifying and exploring gaps, conducting trials aimed at improving care and leading policy and health systems change. She gave a sneak preview of a survey that looked at the percentage of heart attack patients in Australia and New Zealand received the recommended care on discharge from hospital. “Not good enough,” she said. The study will be published within coming months, and is sure to be of great interest to Australasia’s public and private hospitals. Professor Redfern gave an overview of several e-health initiatives currently undergoing testing by TGI researchers. They included ECG screening trials currently underway with pharmacies, GP-directed decision support, an integrated patient-directed internet portal and apps and text messaging systems. “Patients love the text messaging,” she said. “E-health is evolving rapidly and new technology may help with diagnosis, treatment and management of cardiovascular disease.”