Government’s hearty aid

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced funding of $220 million to help tackle heart disease and stroke.

The funds, awarded under the government’s landmark Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), will be invested in a 10-year ‘Mission for cardiovascular health’ and support Australian researchers to make fresh discoveries, develop a global biotech industry and enable the implementation of changes in healthcare.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) was the underlying cause of 43,500 deaths in 2017 in Australia. Every 12 minutes, one person dies of CVD in this country, while one Australian experiences a heart attack or stroke every five minutes.

“The mission aims to improve health outcomes through prevention strategies, earlier detection and improved outcomes for patients suffering a heart attack or stroke,” Mr Hunt said.

“It aims to reduce hospitalisations, develop clinical trials and new drug therapies, using the unique DNA of a patient to develop new therapies. It will also look into why people don’t lead an unhealthy lifestyle or have a genetic predisposition to suffer heart attacks.”

The mission will be overseen by an appointed expert advisory panel chaired by Professor Gemma Figtree and will have a broad scope. Open and contestable grant opportunities will stimulate new and emerging research to address heart disease and stroke.

The mission includes the recently announced $20 million in funding to help defeat congenital heart disease by better understanding genetic causes and treatment options through the HeartKids project.

“In early February the federal government established the HeartKids project to tackle childhood heart disease, which affects more than 65,000 Australians,” Mr Hunt said. “In Australia, of the approximately 300,000 births each year, between 2,400 to 3,000 babies are born with a form of congenital heart disease.”

From April 1, a new dedicated Medicare item for heart health checks will support GPs and patients in assessing CVD.

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