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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Taskforce sets ambitious target for the hidden threat behind heart disease, stroke and dementia

Health Industry Hub | March 20, 2024 |

Pharma News: Hypertension has emerged as a leading risk factor for Australia’s top three killers: coronary heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Despite its profound implications, Australia finds itself trailing behind nations such as Germany, Canada, and the US in blood pressure control rates.

Statistics paint a troubling picture: one in three Australian adults grapple with high blood pressure, yet only half of them are aware of their condition. Among those who are aware, merely a third have their blood pressure under control. These alarming figures underscore significant health disparities, with regional and remote communities bearing the brunt of the burden.

Yesterday, Members of Parliament were confronted with the realities of these numbers within their own electorates. They were implored to spearhead transformative change and champion blood pressure control initiatives within their communities.

The rallying cry came from the National Hypertension Taskforce, a collaborative effort between the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance and Hypertension Australia. Setting an ambitious target, the Taskforce aims to elevate Australia’s controlled blood pressure rates from 32% to 70% by 2030. Comprising 25 members spanning the health spectrum, including the Heart Foundation and Stroke Foundation, the Taskforce unveiled its roadmap for action at the Parliament House event.

Professor Alta Schutte, Co-chair of the Hypertension Taskforce, emphasised the pivotal role of collective action and community engagement.

“Prevention, detection, and treatment form the cornerstone of our strategy,” she asserted, urging all parliamentarians to take proactive steps in leading this charge.

Echoing her sentiments, Professor Markus Schlaich, Co-chair of the Hypertension Taskforce, urged MPs to set an example by prioritising their own blood pressure checks and advocating for constituents to do the same.

“May Measure Month is approaching,” he noted, highlighting a global campaign aimed at raising awareness about blood pressure. “Let’s kickstart the initiative by ensuring our own blood pressure is in check and empowering all Australians to take charge of their health.”

In a parallel effort to boost public awareness, the George Institute, in collaboration with UNSW and the University of Sydney, launched a screening campaign utilising SiSU Health Stations. Thirty Bunnings hardware stores across NSW are serving as hubs for this initiative over the year, offering Australians access to blood pressure monitoring and management services “free of charge and on a self-serve basis”.

The economic toll of uncontrolled hypertension cannot be understated. A recent Australian study estimated that significant savings could be realised by effectively managing blood pressure. Specifically, targeting a systolic blood pressure of 139 mmHg could prevent 25,845 cardiovascular events, saving AUD$179 million in hospital costs. Further lowering the threshold to 129 mmHg could prevent 56,169 events, resulting in potential cost savings of AUD$389 million. Sensitivity analyses suggest even greater savings, ranging from AUD$46 million to AUD$1406 million and AUD$117 million to AUD$2009 million for the respective scenarios.

Belinda Bennett’s harrowing experience serves as a poignant reminder of the silent threat posed by high blood pressure.

“We often underestimate the importance of monitoring our blood pressure,” the thirty-four year old shared, recounting her own brush with pre-eclampsia during pregnancy and her husband’s subsequent heart attack. “But we need to change that. We need people to understand just how important their blood pressure is and to get it regularly checked.”

Maria Vamvakinou MP and Senator Wendy Askew, Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke Foundations, played host to the Hypertension Taskforce event, underscoring bipartisan support for tackling this pressing public health issue.

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