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Heart Foundation reiterates urgent call for a national heart health action plan

Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for almost 10,000 deaths every year in New Zealand with almost a quarter of those avoidable, increasing to half of all cardiovascular deaths for Māori and Pacific people.

In 2020, the Heart Foundation first called for a national heart health action plan. Since then, almost 30,000 New Zealanders have lost their lives to heart disease and stroke. We estimate 7,000 of those deaths were premature and avoidable. These deaths could have been avoided through better prevention and improved and timely access to evidence-based health care.

Heart Foundation Medical Director Dr Gerry Devlin says when the Government released Te Pae Tata interim New Zealand Health Plan 2022, it was disappointing that a clear commitment to reducing the burden of heart disease and stroke was not evident.

“Given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in New Zealand, there is no excuse not to deliver a national heart health action plan and we urge health policymakers to put it on the agenda.

“Many of these deaths are avoidable and are due to people simply not having access to existing treatment options.

"The current health system reforms are an opportunity to set clear ambitious goals for improved heart health.”

A Heart Foundation White Paper Healthy hearts, healthy nation published today proposes that a national action plan has high-level goals to reduce the rate of avoidable heart disease mortality and morbidity for all New Zealanders by at least 50% by 2050; and by 2040 for Māori and Pacific people.

“There are huge and avoidable disparities in heart health outcomes. Māori, Pacific people and those living in the most deprived parts of the country are more likely to be exposed to risk factors such as smoking and to face multiple barriers to accessing care including cost, transport and cultural disconnect.”

Dr Devlin says this results in under and delayed diagnosis and subsequent management and support. Urgent work is required to better understand and remove these barriers.

“Access to basic cardiovascular risk assessment and to cardiology services remains inconsistent and lacking for many New Zealanders. There are restrictions and limitations on access to cost-effective and evidence-based treatments, and cardiac arrest survival rates are hampered by inconsistent access to CPR and community defibrillators.” 

“While New Zealand is a world leader in heart research, translation into outcomes for our population remains inconsistent, unequal and unfair,” Dr Devlin says.

Healthy hearts, healthy nation – priorities for a national heart health action plan can be accessed here.