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Mike Tomlinson

Adapting and accelerating our work for people and communities across New Zealand was a key focus as we faced the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our donors, supporters and volunteers continued to support us in incredible ways, and together, we were able to maintain our focus on improving the heart health of New Zealanders.

In 2021, we refreshed our strategic plan with a sharpened focus on leading and funding life-saving heart research, delivering impactful services and connecting with communities to create heart-healthy futures together.

It's a pleasure to report on some of our achievements, made possible by the generosity of our supporters.

Funding for heart research

We were incredibly proud to announce more than $4 million of new funding for heart research and specialist training for cardiologists, supporting the development of transformational new treatments and world-class clinical care for New Zealanders living with heart disease.

Our collaboration with the University of Auckland's Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence identified opportunities to facilitate further research through co-funding. We look forward to continuing our work together.

The recent launch of My Heart Check meant 37,000 New Zealanders could access a free online heart health check at our website, supporting our goal to improve the early detection and management of heart disease.

Together with the Ministry of Health, we ran an atrial fibrillation awareness campaign, mainly online, to educate New Zealanders on how to take their pulse and help identify undiagnosed atrial fibrillation in our communities.

Impact of Covid-19

Covid-19 hampered our presence in communities at times. However, our teams worked quickly to address the challenges. They were driven to succeed in connecting with people, whether through online services or additional tools and resources for educators, families, students and those living with heart disease.

The Covid-19 response settings impacted our work in early learning services. However, our teams worked tirelessly to strengthen our online capabilities and expertise to build deep connections with educators and provide a wide range of practical resources.

Clive Nelson

During the year's second half, we were delighted to return to early learning services to support heart-healthy environments. This work is done with funding from the Ministry of Health, and it was pleasing to have this renewed for a further three years.

In June 2021, we celebrated 15 years of the food reformulation programme that has supported food companies in reducing sodium (salt) and sugar levels in crucial food categories. We've seen dramatic improvements in critical categories, including bread, where 150 tonnes of salt were removed from white bread in one year.

Big Heart Charity Lottery

The Big Heart Appeal street collection in February 2022 was cancelled for the second time due to Covid-19. While it was incredibly disappointing, we were pleased to be able to extend our fundraising efforts with the introduction of the Big Heart Charity Lottery launched in May. The new offering is exclusively online and complements the longstanding Heart Foundation Lottery.

In June, it was a privilege to celebrate and welcome back Toi Tangata to our refurbished office building, Te Whare Manawanui, in Ellerslie, Auckland. Named by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Te Whare Manawanui means house of the steadfast and big-hearted.

Our thanks

Our thanks go to all the kind-hearted people and organisations who fundraise, donate, campaign and support our purpose. It's through your generosity that we can achieve all that we do.

Thank you to all members of the Board and Board sub-committees, Scientific Advisory Group and Investment Committee, who generously gift their time and professional expertise. A special acknowledgement and thank you to long-serving Board member Tom Treacy, who has retired, and a warm welcome to Steve Anderson, who will bring his extensive experience to the Board.

While we continue to face many challenges, strong financial stewardship over many years has enabled us to navigate these uncertain times, weathering the cycles of economic and financial downturns while maintaining a strong focus on our strategy and the heart health of New Zealanders.

We look forward with optimism, making progress on our new strategic plan and working toward our vision – Hearts fit for life.

Mike Tomlinson, Chairman and Clive Nelson, Chief Executive

Gerry Devlin

Transformational research underway

A pacemaker that mimics the hearts of elite athletes, a simple blood test to predict imminent heart attacks, and ‘living drugs’ to regenerate damaged heart tissue were some of the research projects awarded funding this past year.

The 2021 awards included six Project Grants, four Overseas Training and Research Fellowships, seven Research Fellowships, two Māori Cardiovascular Research Fellowships, five Small Project Grants and five Summer Studentships.

We were delighted to award $4.1 million of funding across the bench-to-bedside spectrum, taking the total awarded since 1968 to more than $82 million.

How we diagnose and treat heart disease has changed dramatically in recent years. This includes better imaging techniques, new medications and less invasive treatment, all now established in New Zealand due to successful research and overseas training fellowships.

The outcomes for people with heart attacks and other heart conditions have improved dramatically due to research. New and better treatments result in longer and healthier lives for thousands of New Zealanders.

We must continue these incredible advances and enable our researchers, innovators, doctors and nurses to keep making progress on improving heart health outcomes for New Zealanders.

It’s incredible to think that when we started funding research more than 50 years ago, we could never have imagined that we’d be able to achieve what we can today.

Through research, we are always learning more about the causes of heart disease and finding new ways to prevent, treat and even reverse some conditions.

One day, I hope we can identify genetic markers to predict if our children are at risk of heart disease. When babies are born with congenital heart defects, they can be treated without having to endure multiple surgeries.

Thank you so much to our generous supporters for enabling the investment in the next generation of cardiologists and researchers. Together, we’re creating healthier futures by improving the heart health of New Zealanders.

Dr Gerry Devlin, Heart Foundation Medical Director

The differences you have made this year

Here are just a few of the highlights from our year, that you've helped us achieve.

of funding invested into research grants
children reached through our education programmes
heart health resources downloaded
My Heart Check assessments completed

Life-saving research

Investigating the link between premature birth and heart disease.

In 2020, Dr Sarah Harris was awarded a Heart Foundation research fellowship to come up with solutions in the investigation of the link between premature birth and heart disease.

Read about Dr Sarah's research
Dr Sarah Harris

Pasifica man reading checking his heart rate

How old is your heart?

My Heart Check is a new online heart health check available to all New Zealanders and shows people how their heart age compares to their actual age.

It is the first publicly available risk calculator that is tailored to the New Zealand population.

Read more about My Heart Check here

Creating strong foundations

Highlighting healthier food choices for pre-schoolers and primary school students is important for giving children the best possible start in life.

The Heart Foundation is involved with several initiatives to create strong foundations and spark enthusiasm for heart-healthy living.

Learn more here
Three pre school children eating lunch


Thousands of volunteers help support the Heart Foundation by giving their time and energy.

Whether it's organising support groups or holding a bucket for the Big Heart Appeal, every contribution helps us to support Kiwis to live heart-healthy lives.

Read Miriam's story


Looking ahead to another successful Big Heart Appeal.

While our Big Heart Appeal was cancelled in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were thrilled to have so much support from donors, supporters and partners. Our Supporter Care team took thousands of calls during the Big Heart Appeal campaign period. We are looking forward to our Big Heart Appeal street collection next February 2022.

Volunteer in our Big Heart Appeal

Thank you to our kind-hearted supporters, including individuals, organisations and trusts who help make a difference to thousands of New Zealanders, every day. Without your tremendous commitment to the cause, we wouldn’t be able to achieve the work we do in communities across the country.

From everyone at the Heart Foundation – here’s to you.


  • AIA Vitality
  • Anthony Quirk and Elaine Butterworth
  • Atlantis Healthcare
  • Caiger Charitable Trust
  • Chris Nunn
  • Community Trust South
  • David and Helen Hoskin
  • Dorothy Cutts
  • Edna and Winifred White-Parsons Charitable Trust
  • Estate of Grace E M Kay - Orakau Heart Research Scholarship Trust
  • Ethel Rona McIndoe Estate
  • Farina Thompson Charitable Trust
  • Frank and Koba Schuurman
  • Frederick James Brunskill Estate
  • Freemasons Lodge Te Papa No 316
  • Gary George Ryan Estate
  • Graeme and Miriam Harnett
  • Graham Still
  • Harold Desmond Bell
  • Harvey White
  • Hilda Curtis Charitable Trust
  • Hynds Foundation
  • Jack Jeffs Charitable Trust
  • Jackie Winthrop
  • Jean Popadyniec Estate
  • Jennian Homes
  • Jennifer Smith Family Trust
  • John Ormiston
  • Kashif Khokhar
  • Longford Trust
  • Lorraine and Carol Carter
  • Malcolm Legget and Carrie Hobson
  • Margery and Douglas Bassett
  • Mark Richards
  • Maureen Elizabeth Edson Estate
  • Michael and Betsy Benjamin
  • Michael Williams Family Trust
  • Milestone Foundation Limited
  • My Food Bag
  • N H Taylor Charitable Trust
  • Nigel Lever
  • Nigel Wilson
  • Norman Sharpe
  • Nova Charitable Trust
  • NZ Community Trust
  • One Foundation
  • Perpetual Guardian
  • Peter Ruygrok
  • R & A J Francis Charitable Trust
  • Rātā Foundation
  • Ray Watts Charitable Trust
  • Richard Troughton
  • Rob Doughty
  • Robert Beaglehole
  • Robert Oates
  • Room-Simmonds Charitable Trust
  • Rotorua Trust
  • Royston Health Trust Board
  • Ruth Bonita Beaglehole
  • Sandhir Prasad
  • Southland Medical Foundation Inc
  • Stewart Hobbs
  • The Owen And John Whitfield Charitable Trust No 2
  • The Reed Charitable Trust
  • The Southern Trust
  • The Winton & Margaret Bear (Charitable) Trust’s Children’s Heart Health Care Trust
  • Tom Gentles
  • William Noel Pharazyn Charitable Trust
  • Winston Knight
  • Zena and Jack Peat Charitable Trust