Heart Foundation calls for national plan on heart disease

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 19th August 2010

photofries-crop.jpgThe Heart Foundation and National Stroke Foundation today expressed disappointment that neither major political party has offered a national action plan addressing Australia’s leading cause of death – cardiovascular disease.

The two Foundations called on major parties to commit themselves to a comprehensive national action plan for this largely preventable disease, saying funds invested would reduce costs, save lives and ease the strain on hospitals. It would also reduce the incidence of other diseases, including diabetes and many common cancers.

Improvements in Australia’s diet were identified by the Foundations as a key way of making headway against the disease, including reduction of salt, saturated and trans fat content in food and improved labelling.

Other suggestions, dervide from the UK’s esteemed National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, include increasing participation in active transport as well as build on existing
initiatives, such as a nationawide cardiovascular health check.

Heart Foundation National CEO, Dr Lyn Roberts, said that while many good prevention programs particularly in tobacco control had been adopted, there was a long way to go.

“It’s time to join the dots and establish a proper, evidence-based CVD action plan,” she said.

National Stroke Foundation CEO Dr Erin Lalor said CVD remains the most expensive disease for our health system.

“We urgently need an action plan to reduce the cost and suffering across the community. Introducing regular cardiovascular health checks for Australians would prevent significant number of heart attacks and strokes and avoid many cases of diabetes and kidney disease. Early intervention is cost effective and helps save lives,” Dr Lalor said.

The Heart Foundation welcomed the announcement of a proposed National Food Plan by Labor, but hopes of a ‘second phase’ to address health and nutrition have not yet materialised.

“A comprehensive, national, whole-of-government food policy framework that maps out the Government’s vision, strategy and policy for food supply in Australia and the nutritional health of Australians would also assist the food labeling review, said Dr Roberts.

“The Food Plan should articulate the Government’s strategies to deal with food issues. For example, halving the saturated fat intake in the Australian diet requires a mix of regulatory (e.g. labelling laws for health and nutrient claims for saturated/trans fat ) and non-regulatory strategies (e.g. voluntary nutrient targets for food industry and social marketing campaigns),” she said.

The Heart Foundation also welcomed the Victorian move to put nutritional information on menus, and has called on Government to implement the plan across Australia.