United action on chronic disease

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Adj. Prof. John Kelly

National Heart Foundation CEO
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In 2016, John Kelly returned to the heart health field after starting his career as a cardiac nurse. Most recently he spent four years as CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia and spent nine years on The Smith Family Board.

About 9 in 10 Australian deaths can be attributed to Non-Communicable (or chronic) Diseases (NCD), especially the big four killers – cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease.

The Heart Foundation wants to change that.

Our vision - an Australia free of heart disease – is set out in our new One Heart 2018-2020 Strategy, signed off by our National Board on 20 July. It will guide our work to prevent heart disease and improve the heart health and quality of life of all Australians through our work in prevention, support and research.

I recently returned from the World Heart Federation 2nd Global Summit on Circulatory Health , where I was one of 140 other delegates from governments, the World Health Organization, the cardiovascular research community, the private sector, international heart and stroke organisations and various heart federations.

I was delighted to experience a renewed sense of urgency, and a willingness to accelerate progress and galvanise community action on cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Discussion focused on how to effectively progress National CVD Action Plans as a follow up to the Mexico Declaration agreed to last year.

Global experts and health leaders agreed that without swift adoption of prevention and treatment strategies – and, in particular, raising the priority status of CVD on national and global agendas – we shall see an increase in global death and disability from preventable disease.

As a result, more than 100 leaders helped develop an action plan based on:

1. Ministries of Health to strengthen NCD Action Plans by prioritising investment in access to treatment and services for the prevention and management of circulatory diseases at the primary healthcare level; with a focus on secondary prevention, hypertension detection and control and tobacco control.

2. Governments to support and promote policy decisions that have a positive impact on the prevention of CVD by adopting a ‘health in all policies’ approach.

3. Ministries of Health to prioritise access to health services, the prevention and treatment of heart-related conditions to detect and effectively manage high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes over the lifetime of the patient.

4. Ministries of Health to develop systems to collect national data on CVD mortality and morbidity and the use of essential medicines in secondary and primary prevention of circulatory diseases.

5. All professional organisations to support patients with circulatory disease, those at high risk of developing circulatory disease, and stakeholders more widely

In Australia, we have already seen welcome action by the Federal Government identifying ‘preventive health through physical activity’ as one of the four key pillars of its National Sports Plan on physical activity.

In May, the Government also announced that it would allocate $10 million over two years to the Heart Foundation to lead the Prime Minister’s Walk for Life Challenge. We look forward to working together to support more Australians to become regular walkers and encourage people to be more active.

The next step – pardon the pun – must be addressing the gap in the current Federal health approach to chronic disease by developing a National Heart and Stroke Strategy to sit under the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions.

We believe it is the key to reduce the number of Australians who die from Non-Communicable Diseases such as cardiovascular disease.

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