Medicare-funded heart health checks will be introduced for all Australians at risk of heart disease following the success of the Show Some Ticker campaign to tackle the deadly condition.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the service on Sunday, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten agreeing to support the service shortly after.
Mr Morrison announced that from April 1, all Australians at risk of heart disease will be eligible for a multi-point heart check-up in a move that could prevent an estimated 76,500 heart attacks, almost 10,000 of which are fatal.
Heart disease currently kills 51 people a day in Australia, with many more seriously affected. It is thought the initiative will not only save lives but also save the government $1.5 billion over the next five years.
A heart health check will take 30 minutes during which a GP will check key signs including a patient’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking status, lifestyle factors and family history. Based on the findings they will then estimate the patient’s risk of a heart attack over the next five years. Medicare will provide a rebate of $72.80 for the service.
Those patients at risk may be put on medication and given advice with regards to adjusting their lifestyle including diet and exercise.
In addition to the heart health checks, the Morrison Government will provide funding of $220 million from the Medical Research Future Fund. The money will be used for research into heart disease and to fast-track the discovery of new treatments.
In making the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the devastating nature of heart disease and said, “too many Australians lose their life to heart related conditions every year.
“From April 1, we will provide additional and dedicated Medicare support for heart health checks for every Australian who needs it,” he said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “our Government is deeply committed to tackling Australia’s biggest killer, heart disease.”
Labor leader Mr Shorten followed the Government’s announcement by pledging to make heart disease a priority and agreed to also provide the required $170 million to fund the heart health check should he win this year’s federal election.
“My father died from a heart attack so I know all too well the impact of this terrible disease,” he said.
“The ‘Show Some Ticker’ campaign has done an incredible job shining a light on Australia’s leading cause of death and injury and Labor is proud to join the fight.”
The successful launch of this initiative comes at a time when a YouGov Galaxy Poll found almost every Australian adult has at least one unhealthy habit or risk factor for a heart attack, although only one in six adult Australians are aware that they are at risk.
Heart Foundation CEO Professor John Kelly said The Heart Foundation welcomes the overwhelming bipartisan support.
“One week ago, the Heart Foundation launched a compelling campaign to remind Australians that heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country.
“Despite significant advances in recent decades, we still lose 51 lives every day to heart disease, and we can’t stand by and let that continue. We have had an incredible response, with more than 135,000 Australians completing our Heart Age Calculator, and we now also have bipartisan support for a dedicated MBS item number for Heart Health Checks.
“This is a remarkable outcome in such a short space of time, but it is also just the beginning, and we will continue working tirelessly to protect hearts and save lives. The Heart Foundation is celebrating its 60th anniversary today; what a great birthday present for us and the Australian community.”