Heart Foundation calls for cross-party Parliament support in health plan

10:06 am on 4 August 2020

The Heart Foundation is demanding urgent action to cut the number of people dying from cardiovascular disease.

Elderly man holding hands on chest suffering from heart attack, closeup

File photo. Photo: 123RF

Its medical director says the disease kills 10,000 New Zealanders each year and almost one in four could be saved with better strategies for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.

Dr Gerry Devlin wants a national action plan and says there should be cross-party support in Parliament for the government to develop one.

Māori and Pasifika people are almost one and half times more more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke before the age of 65, than non-Māori and four times more likely to die of heart disease.

Dr Devlin says that while there's been a significant reduction in people dying from heart disease since the foundation was established in 1968, one in three New Zealanders will die of either heart disease or stroke.

"The burden of heart disease affects our communities differently. We know that Māori and Pasifika are much more likely to develop heart disease and stroke and die at younger ages."

Dr Devlin is also a cardiologist at Hauora Tairawhiti and says he has seen Māori present with heart failure at much younger ages than Pākehā, and much more severely.

"We regard heart failure in Europeans as a disease of getting older. You don't see that pattern in Māori and Pasifika, you tend to see them presenting earlier.

"We've got issues with equity and heart health in this country. That's really important and shouldn't sit lightly with any of us.

Dr Devlin said that while we need to improve the heart health of all New Zealanders, targeted help is needed for those most vulnerable to it.

"We all know the statistics around Māori and Pasifika in high deprivation areas. We also know people with severe mental health disease are much more likely to die prematurely of heart disease."

He said that a national action plan would look at the lifecourse of an average person and begin with education in school.

"Pivotal to that is empowering New Zealanders to actually look after themselves; to make heart-healthy choices around diet... but also around being more active."

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