Leading heart experts rally together to stop our nation’s biggest killer

Heart disease, Australia’s biggest killer needs to be managed lifelong in order to stop unnecessary and premature deaths, according to the newly established National Secondary Prevention Alliance.

Every year about 75 000 Australians have a heart attack. In the year following about one in five have a repeat event with the number of repeat events likely to increase by more than 40 per cent by 2020.

Repeat cardiovascular events can be halved by effective secondary prevention care, including lifestyle improvements, taking cholesterol and blood pressure lowering treatments, as well as aspirin and other preventative medicines. Yet, only 50 per cent of patients adhere to lifestyle recommendations or take medicines and only one in three people access a prevention program.

The Secondary Prevention Alliance is a group of government, non-government, consumer and healthcare organisations who have united to drive reform and create long-term change for those who have survived a heart attack or are living with other forms of heart disease. The group met for the first time on 2 November to start formulating a national action plan.  

“The time has come for a united approach to one of our nation’s biggest health priorities”, says Co-Chair of the Alliance Associate Professor Julie Redfern of The George Institute and The University of Sydney.

“The Alliance provides a single expert voice that is focused on practical solutions and reform to the health system to help heart attack survivors manage their disease,” Associate Professor Redfern said.

“A national collaborative approach to this health issue means resources and expertise are being used most efficiently and effectively, which in turn will deliver better outcomes for Australians sooner rather than later.”

Raising awareness about heart disease being a lifelong chronic condition is essential says Cardiologist and Co-Chair of the Alliance, Associate Professor Clara Chow of The George Institute and The University of Sydney.
“Patients who have had a heart attack or have been diagnosed with heart disease are at the highest risk of a repeat heart attack and dying of their heart disease,” Professor Chow says.

“With recent media attention questioning the benefit of cholesterol lowering statins it is more important than ever before to remind heart attack survivors that adhering to their medication regime is critical to reducing the risk of a repeat event,” she said.

“Cholesterol-lowering statins reduce the risk of a repeat heart attack by up to 30% and there is strong evidence that cholesterol-lowering statins have a real benefit which is endorsed by medical guidelines globally; while statins are not a magic bullet, they play an important part in the medical management plan of heart attack survivors, reducing their risk of dying from their disease.”

Heart disease costs Australia $18.3 billion in 2010 – more than any other disease group. Half of this is attributable to repeat events, with this cost expected to increase to $11.8 billion by 2020.

Use of evidence-based secondary prevention care would reduce repeat events by approximately $300 million in indirect health care costs – a total of $600 million each year.

About the Secondary Prevention Alliance

Following a National Summit for Secondary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease, hosted by The George Institute for Global Health in 2011, one of the key recommendations outlined in the Summit’s consensus report was to establish a secondary prevention taskforce – The Secondary Prevention Alliance.

The overall objective of the Alliance is to improve lifelong outcomes for Australians living with heart disease. As a matter of national priority, the aim of the Alliance is to raise the profile of secondary prevention services in Australia. This requires facilitating a paradigm shift in approaches to lifelong management of those living with heart disease.

The Alliance is strongly aligned with the World Health Organisation’s target of reducing non-communicable diseases by 25% by 2025 and will be actively engaged in the development of a National Action Plan for reducing Cardiovascular to be presented at the World Cardiology Congress 2014.

The Alliance will play a variety of roles including building a national advocacy program, working with government and health professionals, increasing public understanding and awareness of the importance of secondary prevention, and developing improved secondary prevention resources and best practice guidelines.