Extra $9.3m to make every heart beat count

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National Heart Foundation boosts research funding by $9.3m - increasing annual research funding of $13 million by almost 40 per cent.

The National Heart Foundation today announced a one-off increase in heart disease research funding by allocating an additional $9.3 million for research in 2017, increasing annual research funding of $13 million by almost 40%.

National Heart Foundation CEO Professor Garry Jennings said $5.3 million from the Foundation and the generosity of a $4 million bequest made it possible to help fund research to increase the life quality and span of those with heart disease and stroke.

"We know over the past few years that research funding in this area has fallen.  If we do not act now, researchers will turn their significant skills elsewhere resulting in a lack of knowledge to meet our most costly and prevalent health burden, heart disease," Professor Jennings said. 

"Every researcher that isn’t working on finding a cure for heart disease or a way for people to better survive a heart attack is a researcher wasted. 

"Heart disease remains the single biggest killer of all Australians and for the first time since 2008 the mortality rate has risen. Heart disease was also an associated cause of death for a further 16,000 Australians in 2014," Professor Jennings said.

Professor Jennings said that whilst this commitment is a one off, the Heart Foundation has agreed to work towards a significant increase in recurrent funding. 

Every researcher not working on finding a cure for heart disease or a way for people to better survive a heart attack is a researcher wasted — National Heart Foundation CEO Professor Garry Jennings

Even with this pledge, more is needed, that is why we will be seeking to leverage our investment with other significant sources of medical research funding.

Professor Jon Kalman, Heart Foundation researcher and Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at The Royal Melbourne Hospital said medical research funding into heart disease was vital if more lives are to be saved.

"Medical research funding from the Heart Foundation has allowed me to develop better diagnostics and treatments for my patients and bring us one step closer to developing cures for many heart related conditions," Professor Kalman said.

"However, without this funding we will see the loss of a generation of cardiovascular researchers who will otherwise not have access to the research support required to break the increasing prevalence of heart disease in Australia."

Professor Jennings said the Heart Foundation has a legacy of excellence and being dedicated to discovery in heart disease research.

"We helped to fund projects such as persuading then Telecom Australia to introduce a national free line for emergencies – the 000 service. In 1972, we were the first ones to show that patients could recognise their own heart attack," Professor Jennings said.

"We also funded research that helped develop electronic transmission of ECGs and demonstrated that passive smoking leads to heart disease risk

"Many Australians believe the problem of heart disease has been ‘solved’. However recent data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed that in 2014, 20,173 people died from Ischemic heart disease, up 2% from 2013 where it was the primary cause of death for 19,769 Australians," he said.

The Heart Foundation thanks the family of the NSW man who made this enormous bequest contribution allowing the Heart Foundation to fund projects vital to understanding and improve stroke symptoms and survival.

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Media contact: Karen Kissane, National Media & Strategic Communications Manager 03 9090 2016.