Heart disease and stroke are responsible for almost 30 per cent of all deaths and 15 per cent of Australia’s total disease burden. Heart Week is an opportunity for health professionals and Gippsland community members to start a conversation about heart health and the steps needed to reduce the risk of heart disease.
The Gippsland PHN Needs Assessment highlights the importance of heart health in Gippsland with coronary heart disease the leading cause of death for both males and females in the region.
A Gippsland PHN Heart Health Fact Sheet shows almost 1 in every 3 adults in Gippsland report high blood pressure (compared to 1 in 4 across Victoria). Risk factors for heart disease include smoking with 1 in 5 adults in Gippsland current smokers (compared to 1 in 8 across Victoria).
A healthy lifestyle, including a diet high in fruit and vegetables and regular exercise can protect people from developing heart disease. Around 42% of adults in Gippsland meet physical activity guidelines (similar to Victoria 41%).
To make the healthy choice the easy choice, communities across Gippsland’s six local government areas are working with local Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing partners to make changes. Examples include improved access to water fountains in public areas in Baw Baw to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, healthier options at cafes and catering menus at Latrobe Regional Hospital and in East Gippsland, school gardens have led to healthier eating and a place to meet.
Heart health was identified as one of the most important health issues in a Gippsland survey in 2016, especially by older people. According to the Victorian Population Health Survey, an estimated 80% of adults in Gippsland had a blood pressure check in the past two years (Victoria 80%), while 57% had their cholesterol checked in the past two years (Victoria 60%).
Medicare funded Heart Health Checks will be available from general practitioners from April 2019 via the introduction of two new Medicare Rebate items.
The 2 new items are:
item 177 – for non-vocationally recognised medical practitioners
item 699 – for general practitioners
These items support the prevention and treatment of heart disease. The heart health check complements the range of MBS items that support rebates for people to discuss their risk of heart disease with their GP, including time-based consultations for preventive health, health assessments, and Chronic Disease Management items. Patients will benefit from the introduction of this item through potentially earlier identification of cardiovascular disease and more timely and appropriate medical intervention to support improved outcomes.
These Heart Health Check items are for services for patients who have or are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease to conduct a Heart Health Check. The Heart Foundation recommends Australians over 45 years of age have a Heart Health Check. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians should have a check when they are over 35. This Heart Health Check performed by a general practitioner can indicate the level of risk of having a heart attack or stroke within the next 5 years.
Professor Gary Jennings, cardiologist and Chief Medical Advisor for the Heart Foundation says the introduction of Heart Health Checks, and better treatments for people at risk of heart disease, could, over the next five years, prevent:
- 76,500 heart attacks and strokes
- 9,100 deaths
A general practitioner may have access to clinical software or alternatively online tools (for example, National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance Tool) to assist with the Heart Health Check assessments and collation of results.
PHN is committed to improving the health of all Gippslanders and is
supporting the Heart Foundation to promote the new Heart Age Calculator and Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk Assessment Calculator. Gippsland HealthPathways provides access to referral pathways for GPs. Free heart health education sessions to the community and to health professionals are planned for April and May 2019.