Mike TomlinsonWe continue to make great progress on our three strategic goals. It’s a pleasure to report on some of our achievements, which are only possible with the generosity of our donors, supporters and volunteers – we love your work.

The impacts of the Covid-19 global pandemic presented challenges for all charities in the second half of the financial year. The strength and resilience of our organisation, and our supporters, meant we were able to quickly respond to the changing environment. We are particularly proud of the ways our teams developed new or modified services to support people living with heart disease throughout New Zealand.

Heart-healthy lifestyle choices

In November, we expanded the range of lesson plans and resources in the Food Curriculum to Year 7. This new programme supports teachers by giving them resources to teach life skills to future generations at intermediate class level.

The value of these, and other heart healthy nutrition resources, became even more apparent in April when we provided free access to education providers to support home schooling for children during the nationwide lockdown.

Our work to improve the food environments in early learning services and schools continued in partnership with the Ministry of Health. Nearly 800 early learning services took part in our Healthy Heart Award programme this year, and our Fresh Made programme, which partners with food providers to offer healthier menu choices in school canteens and tuck shops, reached nearly 60,000 students.

We were delighted to continue delivery of the Food for Thought programme in partnership with Foodstuffs. The programme uses an inquiry-based learning approach to help Yr 5/6 students and their whānau to make informed, healthier food choices.

While all our community face-to-face prevention programmes were disrupted during the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we seized on new opportunities. We piloted online delivery for some courses using video conferencing tools, and our Pacific Heartbeat team is now introducing more online teaching programmes to help improve health outcomes for Pacific people.

Clive Nelson

Providing care and support for people in local communities

We introduced a new Atrial Fibrillation Awareness campaign in November. The condition causes an irregular and often rapid heart rate and can lead to stroke and heart failure. Our campaign focused on pulse checks; teaching people how to take their own pulse and getting to know their pulse as a way of monitoring and detecting an irregular heart rate.

Community engagement and information sessions for people living with heart disease are a key component of our care and support programme. They are made possible by cardiologists and health professionals who help people better understand and live well with their condition. We are very grateful to these kind-hearted professionals for their generous support.

In April, we set-up two new phone services to support people dealing with uncertainty during the Covid-19 response. Our nurses offered support to heart patients calling our 0800 heart helpline and our regional teams proactively made calls to people living with heart disease to check-in and offer support. Both services will continue as we evolve and navigate our way through the Covid-19 situation.

The heart attack awareness TV campaign, which is made possible by the generosity of our donors, continued to help save lives. Feedback from Kiwis who've survived an event reminds us of the importance of recognising heart attack warning signs.

Ground-breaking research

On World Heart Day, 29 September 2019, we announced $3.7 million of new funding for heart research and specialist training for New Zealand cardiologists.

The commitment to supporting ground-breaking research has been a cornerstone of our work for more than 50 years. Investment in research to improve cardiovascular care here in New Zealand, as well as on the global stage, is vital for saving lives and improving the quality of life for New Zealanders living with heart disease.

Surviving and thriving

Our success as New Zealand’s heart charity relies on the generosity of people who fundraise, donate, campaign and support our purpose.

On behalf of the Board, I join Clive in paying tribute to our donors and supporters, our Heart Foundation team and our amazing volunteers – thank you.

Our thanks and appreciation also to the members of our Board, Strategic Advisory Group, Investment Committee and Scientific Advisory Group who, as volunteers, are incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and professional expertise.

The 2020-21 year will hold new challenges for all New Zealanders as we deal with the health, social and economic impacts of the global pandemic. We are confident we are positioned to both survive and thrive, having shown our ability to respond to rapidly changing circumstances and make positive impacts.

We look forward to continuing our work and to another great year of progress toward our vision - Hearts fit for life.

Mike Tomlinson

Clive Nelson
Chief Executive

Gerry Devlin

This year has been an incredibly challenging one for all of us around the world. The benefits of research informing evidence-based care has been emphasised by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

In New Zealand, the generous support of our donors and volunteers has enabled the Heart Foundation to continue its life-saving research and vision of improving the heart health of Kiwis.

We were proud to award $3.7 million of funding across the whole cardiovascular health bench-to-bedside spectrum; basic science, public health, prevention and patient management.

This brings the total awarded since 1968 to more than $74 million. Heart disease is New Zealand's single biggest killer. With our ongoing commitment to supporting research, we can keep saving lives and improve the quality of life for the 170,000 New Zealanders living with heart disease.

We've come a long way, with a 75 per cent reduction in deaths from heart disease since we started our work. But heart disease still claims more than 6,700 lives in New Zealand each year. And one preventable death is one too many. Heart disease also impacts significantly on the day-to-day activities of Kiwis.

We are supporting research such as engineering tissue heart valves in the lab to help make them last a patient's lifetime, and coming up with real world solutions to improve the diets in our children.

Other research tackles issues such as improving New Zealander's nutrition, the Heart Foundation's ongoing support with the development of a rheumatic fever vaccine and identifying early kidney damage after heart failure.

The awards include one Programme Grant, seven Project Grants, 12 Fellowships and Scholarships, four Small Project Grants, two Grant-in Aid Grants and five Travel Grants. Five Summer Studentships were also awarded to the medical schools at the University of Auckland and the University of Otago.

Thank you to all our generous supporters, without you we simply couldn’t make the huge gains we have in improving Kiwi's heart health.

Gerry Devlin
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.

million of funding invested into research grants

and specialist training for cardiologists in 2019/2020.

pre-schoolers reached

through our education programmes for early learning services.

heart health resources downloaded

from heartfoundation.org.nz

research and training grants awarded this year

totalling 1,826 since 1968.

Life-saving research

Tackling heart-health inequity head on.

Work is underway to tackle inequities in health outcomes from cardiovascular disease among Māori and Pacific people.

A $2 million research grant was awarded to a team led by Dr Corina Grey and Associate Professor Matire Harwood, by the Heart Foundation and the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge.

It aims to improve access to healthcare for Māori and Pacific people, which has the potential to achieve equity in heart health outcomes for all New Zealanders.

Read about the work
Heart Foundation researchers making heart symbol

nurse on a call

Care and Support

Our free heart helpline was launched this year to support people living with heart disease.

Since April, our cardiac nurses have provided care and support to many New Zealanders who've had concerns or needed advice about their heart health.

The helpline is an integral part in our fight against heart disease. If it wasn't for the advice from our nurses, several New Zealanders wouldn't have dialled 111 this year - a call that may have saved their life.

Call a Heart Help nurse


Heart Foundation nutrition course 'changed my life'.

Anna-Marie Fabricius recently graduated from the Heart Foundation course in Pacific nutrition, and the Aucklander says it changed her life.

The AUT Certificate of Proficiency in Pacific Nutrition has been running for 17 years. It teaches attendees about the relationship between the types of food we eat, the effect they can have on our health, and how to make traditional every-day foods healthier.

Anne-Marie's story
Anne Marie graduating from the Pacific Heartbeat nutrition course



Volunteering and community connection in the Covid-19 era

"Sometimes I get carried away with volunteering," says Sandra Debney who's been volunteering for the Heart Foundation for 15 years. "My husband says he keeps a photo of me on the fridge because we're like ships in the night, passing one another."

Sandra volunteers because, "it's important to be part of the community and help where you can." The Heart Foundation is a "very worthwhile cause – heart disease is the biggest killer of people in New Zealand. It's important to raise awareness."

Read Sandra's story

Life-saving research

Heart disease risk underestimated in patients with mental illness.

Heart disease is a major killer for people with mental illness and one Wellington doctor is trying to turn this around. 

"We should be assessing the risk of these patients a lot earlier. We're just not managing the underlying risk in this group," says Dr Cunningham.

The Heart Foundation funded study, shows the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with mental illness is underestimated by 60 per cent among women and 30 per cent among men.

Dr Cunningham's research
Dr Ruth Cunningham

School children queuing at canteen for healthy food


Healthy habits can start at school.

For years, many schools and early learning services have been outsourcing their catering to local food suppliers, such as bakeries, cafes and takeaway outlets.

To encourage them to create a healthier environment, we developed the Fresh Made programme, supported with funding from the Ministry of Health.

Fresh Made approved menus are now in more than 250 schools and early learning services around New Zealand, supporting the health and wellbeing of young New Zealanders.

More about Fresh Made

Our white paper

Improving heart health outcomes for New Zealand.

A Heart Foundation white paper was launched at Parliament on 4 August 2020. In support of the launch, our staff provided heart health checks for MPs, parliamentary staff and others.

Our team conducted blood pressure checks and heart health risk factor assessments and gave people the opportunity to have onsite cholesterol and blood glucose tests. We also gave referrals for some to see a health professional.

Read the white paper
Ashleigh Bloomfield getting his blood pressure checked by Heart Foundation staff, Linda.

Group of people collecting for the Big Heart Appeal


Thank you for a successful Big Heart Appeal.

More volunteers than ever took to the streets of New Zealand during this year's Big Heart Appeal, helping raise funds for our life-saving work.

The Big Heart Appeal is the Heart Foundation’s biggest fundraising campaign each year and the two-day street collection took place on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 February 2020.

Volunteer in our Big Heart Appeal

Thank you to the generous supporters who help us make a difference for thousands of New Zealanders.

We are grateful to share our purpose and vision with so many generous organisations, trusts and individuals. Your support and collaboration funds vital heart research and supports so many Kiwis nationwide who are impacted by heart disease.

Without your dedication and commitment, we wouldn’t be able to achieve the incredible work we do in our communities.

Thank you for your continuing support during these difficult times.

From everyone at the Heart Foundation - we love your work.

  • Acorn Foundation
  • Anthony Quirk and Elaine Butterworth
  • BlueSky Community Trust
  • Caiger Charitable Trust
  • Community Trust South
  • Donnelly Family Trust
  • Dorothy Cutts
  • Estate of Ernest Hyam Davis & The Ted and Mollie Carr Endowment Trust
  • Farina Thompson Charitable Trust
  • Frank and Koba Schuurman
  • Frederick James Brunskill Estate
  • Grace Craston Charitable Trust
  • Hynds Foundation
  • ILT Foundation
  • Jack Jeffs Charitable Trust
  • Jennifer Smith Family Trust
  • John Ormiston
  • Jones Foundation
  • Lawrance and Stephanie Russell Charitable Trust
  • Lois McFarlane Charitable Trust
  • Longford Trust
  • Margery and Douglas Bassett
  • Marlborough District Council
  • Michael and Betsy Benjamin
  • Milestone Foundation
  • Mt Wellington Charitable Trust
  • New Zealand Community Post
  • Nova Charitable Trust
  • One Foundation
  • Perpetual Guardian – Hosking Charitable Trust
  • ProCare Charitable Foundation
  • Pub Charity Limited
  • Rātā Foundation
  • Ray Watts Charitable Trust
  • Room-Simmonds Charitable Trust
  • Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust
  • Sandra O’Connor
  • Southland Medical Foundation
  • Terry White
  • The Elsie Steele Trust
  • The Lion Foundation
  • The Parnell Hotel and Conference Centre
  • The Reed Charitable Trust
  • The Robert and Barbara Stewart Charitable Trust
  • The Southern Trust
  • The Winton & Margaret Bear (Charitable) Trust's Children's Heart Health Care Trust
  • Trillian Trust
  • Trust Waikato
  • Vera and the late Abraham Krukziener