The Federal Government today committed $220 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to breakthrough research in the fight against cardiovascular disease, the country’s leading cause of death.
The funding will support a Mission for Cardiovascular Health that has been developed by the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA), which brings together the country’s major scientific societies, institutions, RACGP, industry and partners with the Heart Foundation for the advancement of heart, stroke and vascular disease research.
The Mission represents a step change for cardiovascular health, bringing together the entire cardiovascular research community in a whole-of-nation approach. This will ensure our talented researchers are aligned to the most urgent clinical challenges and that discoveries and innovative approaches to care are translated to the bedside in an accelerated manner.
One in three Australians currently die from heart disease and cardiovascular disease costs the community $8.8 billion a year. It is the country’s largest direct health cost.
While the identification and treatment of modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc, have led to a substantial reduction in cardiac illness and death in Australia, an increasing proportion of patients with heart problems don’t have these risk factors.1,2
Keith Broadfoot was 34 when he experienced his life-threatening heart attack. “Lacking any known risk factor, perhaps arrogantly, I had thought I was bullet proof when it came to heart disease,” Keith says.
A decade ago approximately one in 10 people presenting with cardiovascular problems lacked the classic risk factors. Today, it is approximately three in every 10 Australians.1,2
“The common perception that heart disease is an inevitable part of ageing, or entirely self-induced by poor lifestyle choices, should not be accepted,” ACvA President and interventional cardiologist, Professor Gemma Figtree says. “It has led to a degree of complacency that has seen our research funding and capacity in this important area, hit rock bottom.
“This is just at a time when recent developments in research and technology platforms have opened up opportunities to unravel the complex mechanisms determining individual susceptibility to heart disease and stroke.
“We must continue to develop new ways to tackle the modifiable risk factors in our community, including obesity and diabetes, but also make a strategic investment in a comprehensive research strategy spanning fundamental patient-focussed discovery through to implementation. This will help us discover important disease pathways, find new biomarkers and understand biological mechanisms that may lead to new therapeutic targets for cardiovascular disease,” Professor Figtree says.
While cardiovascular disease is costly to the nation, cardiovascular research delivers the highest returns on investment for any chronic condition, with a benefit-to-cost ratio of $9.80, for every research dollar invested.
The new Federal Government funding means that over the next five years the ACvA can:
- Increase the capacity of Australian cardiovascular research
- Accelerate the discovery of more effective, personalised treatments
- Enhance translation and attract investment
- Close the gap for Indigenous and remote Australians
- Improve heart health for all Australians.
The research outcomes of the ACvA, already recognised globally, will greatly benefit from this funding, which will directly improve the lives of so many Australians.
– Ends –
Professor Figtree is available for interview.
Keith Broadfoot, a marathon runner and tri-athlete, was 34 years of age when he suffered his heart attack. He is also available for interview.
For more information and media interviews:
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- Vernon ST, et al. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2017 24(17):1824-1830.
- Vernon ST, et al. Microcirculation. 2018;e12488.
A snapshot of Australia’s cardiovascular health
- One Australian suffers a heart attack every 10 minutes, ending in death or heart failure.
- One in every three adult Australians has hypertension and it increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aortic aneurysm, dementia and blindness.
- Stroke affects 56,000 Australians each year with 36,400 (or 65%) of the survivors ending up unable to carry out normal daily activities without assistance.
- In Australia, one limb is amputated every two hours directly due to complications associated with peripheral arterial disease and diabetes.
- Atherosclerosis (fatty deposits lining the artery walls) has a disproportionate effect on indigenous Australians as well as a big impact upon socioeconomically disadvantaged Australians and those living in remote areas.