Mike TomlinsonIt was a year that presented significant challenges as the impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic was felt across our organisation, New Zealand and the world. But the resilience of our organisation and our teams shone through, thanks to the generosity and loyalty of our donors, supporters and volunteers.

Looking out for each other, our supporters, our communities and customers enabled us to manage the disruptions, move quickly to change some of the ways we worked, and allow us to continue our work to improve the heart health of all people living in New Zealand.

We were pleased to launch our white paper “Improving heart health outcomes for New Zealand” at an event at Parliament in August 2020. The content of the paper forms the foundations of our strategic plan for 2021 to 2024. In the paper, we recommend a coordinated national plan to improve heart health outcomes and reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke on all New Zealanders. A national action plan should focus on five key areas that build on existing strengths and we will continue to urge for greater support in pursuing the recommended steps.

Funding research

Funding ground-breaking heart research is a cornerstone of our work, and despite the challenges of the pandemic, we were proud to be able to maintain our financial support for research at a high level. In September 2020, we announced $4.2 million of new funding for heart research and specialist training for New Zealand cardiologists and, for the first time, we introduced a new grant to support advanced training for cardiac nurses.

We also launched Foundation100, an initiative that brings together Heart Foundation research ‘alumni’ with a shared passion to make a difference for New Zealanders through heart research and to support training fellowships for the next generation of cardiologists.

A highlight of the year was further strengthening our relationship with the University of Auckland and supporting the exciting work they’re doing with the Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence. We look forward to working with them to facilitate further research through co-funding, workforce development, community education and outreach.

Care and support programmes

Early detection and management of heart disease is one of the five focus areas we highlighted in a national heart health action plan and in November 2020, we launched My Heart Check, a free online heart health check. My Heart Check gives people an idea of their heart age compared to their actual age, estimates their risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and shares tips on how to reduce the risk.

Our second Atrial Fibrillation Awareness campaign was conducted in November, and we provided free pulse checks at many locations across the country. Our focus is to teach people how to get to know their pulse as a way of detecting an irregular heart rate, which could be atrial fibrillation and can lead to stroke and heart failure.

Our care and support programme for people living with heart conditions continued to evolve and we continued to provide community information sessions during those times when public gatherings were permitted. Our heartfelt thanks go to the cardiologists and health professionals who give their time and knowledge to make these events possible.

Prevention programmesClive Nelson

Our work in communities extends to heart-healthy eating programmes and improving the food environments in schools and early learning services. This work is done in partnership with the Ministry of Health and, despite the Covid-19 related disruptions throughout the year, nearly 680 early learning services engaged with our Healthy Heart Award programme. When schools were closed, we were able to provide educators with many resources to support home schooling.

Teaming up with like-minded organisations to forge new strategic partnerships will provide opportunities for us to reach and support more New Zealanders. This is a focus area for us in our new strategic plan. A new partnership with My Food Bag, where we contribute nutrition advice on heart-healthy recipe options, is an example of how this can work and benefit New Zealanders.

We continue to partner with Foodstuffs in delivering the Food for Thought programme and we are exploring opportunities with Foodstuffs to collaborate on other initiatives in the future.

Big Heart Appeal

The cancellation of our Big Heart Appeal street collection in February was very disappointing, for us and for the thousands of volunteers who had committed their time to it. Our team responded well, putting in place our first virtual street collection to help raise vital funds in these challenging times, and we learned a lot from that.

Heartfelt thanks

As New Zealand’s heart charity, our success relies on the generosity of people who fundraise, donate, campaign and support our purpose. Our thanks go to you, we couldn’t achieve what we have without you.

We’d also like to acknowledge our Heart Foundation team, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, who worked so hard to keep our programmes and services running during rapidly changing circumstances.

Thank you to members of our Board and Board sub-committees, Scientific Advisory Group, and Investment Committee who generously volunteer their time and professional expertise. The financial stewardship of the Heart Foundation over many years, and especially through these uncertain times, means we are well-positioned to continue to make progress, tackle future challenges and fulfil our purpose.

A focus on a new three-year strategic plan gives us cause to be excited and we look forward to continuing our progress toward our vision – Hearts fit for life.

Mike Tomlinson

Clive Nelson
Chief Executive

Gerry Devlin

Funding heart research and specialist training for cardiologists is a cornerstone of our work here at the Heart Foundation, but the impact can sometimes only become visible some years after the grant is awarded.

Advances in heart valve procedures is one of the areas that we are proud to have supported for many years. Last year, a significant number of New Zealanders underwent minimally invasive heart procedures, including valve replacements, benefiting from techniques introduced by New Zealand cardiologists trained overseas.

The generous support of people like you helps to fund millions of dollars’ worth of heart research and training that improves the lives of New Zealanders. This year we were delighted to be able to award $4.2 million of funding across the bench-to-bedside spectrum, taking the total awarded since 1968 to more than $78 million.

We supported new research that could change New Zealand’s national guidelines for cardiovascular screening for mothers and babies. This project investigates the link between premature birth and heart disease, ensuring that premature birth does not lead to a premature death later in life in these children or their mums.

A new grant to support nurses in the field of cardiology was awarded for the first time. Other research funding included a kaupapa Māori action research project to support Māori communities to lead nutrition initiatives to support healthy hearts.

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

But we still need to do more. Heart disease is New Zealand’s single biggest killer, claiming the lives of more than 6,700 loved ones each year. Many deaths from heart disease are avoidable, and one avoidable death is one too many.

But we are both encouraged and excited by the reports from the young cardiologists on Overseas Fellowships in world-class hospitals and from researchers doing ground-breaking investigations here in New Zealand.

A huge thank you to all our generous supporters. Here’s to you . . . and the many more tomorrows made possible by you.

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.

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