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Heart Foundation reconnects with ACT cardiovascular research community
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Heart Foundation reconnects with ACT cardiovascular research community

The Heart Foundation yesterday hosted a seminar for Canberra’s cardiovascular research community, reconnecting face-to-face with local academics and health professionals for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leading researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Canberra attended the event at the National Portrait Gallery, along with cardiologists, cardiac nurses, pharmacists, policy makers, businesspeople and heart disease survivors.

ACT Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith, opened the seminar, which explored the theme of “Saving Australian Hearts: the journey so far and what is next”.

The event included an overview of the Heart Foundation’s work nationally and in the ACT, including its research program.

“The Heart Foundation is Australia’s biggest non-government funder of world-class cardiovascular research,” said the Heart Foundation’s Senior Coordinator – Support and Care, Meg Ryan, who presented at yesterday’s seminar.

“Over the past 60 years, we have invested more than $670 million into research, leading to significant advances in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care,” Ms Ryan said.

“Here in the ACT, we have many innovative researchers and exceptional health professionals. It was terrific to be able to meet face-to-face with them yesterday for the first time in 18 months, and to hear the latest updates on their important work.

“The Heart Foundation is committed to lessening the impact of heart disease on the community, and we take pride in working alongside these local experts to make this mission a reality. We will continue to foster relationships within this network, and to celebrate their expertise and passion.”

Attendees also heard from Professor Walter Abhayaratna, Clinical Director of Canberra Health Services and professor of cardiovascular medicine at ANU, who spoke about current challenges in health care for people with heart disease.

“Treatments for heart disease are improving, and high-quality research is undoubtedly the reason for the progress we have made. However, nearly 6000 patients are hospitalised for cardiovascular disease each year in the ACT and almost 500 will die,” Professor Abhayaratna said.

“We still need to see a stronger focus on patient-centred care, where we are truly putting the needs of the patient at the heart of the health system.

“This means working together across all areas of the health system, building the connections between acute hospital staff through to better community care. This will ensure people avoid unnecessary admissions and also get home sooner to recover with the right supports.”

Professor Emily Banks, a Heart Foundation-funded researcher and professor of epidemiology and public health at ANU, outlined current challenges in the prevention of heart disease.

“Coronary heart disease remains our biggest killer, largely because we are not implementing what we know to prevent it,” Professor Banks said.

“We need to go harder against smoking – especially in priority groups – and make sure people are getting Heart Health Checks to see if they are at risk. If someone is at risk, they need to continue with blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications.

“It’s that simple, and research needs to focus on how to effectively implement what we know, in the clinic and community. It’s harder than a heart transplant – we haven’t cracked it yet.”  

Click here to learn more about the Heart Foundation Research Program.

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