New Medicare-funded health check could save your life
In a major win for millions of Australians, News Corp Australia has secured support from both sides of politics for a crucial step in stopping Australia's biggest single killer - heart disease.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have both promised to deliver Medicare-funded heart health checks that could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars after News Corp Australia and the Heart Foundation launched the #ShowSomeTicker campaign to stop heart disease, which kills 51 people a day.
Mr Morrison will announce today that from April 1 Australians at risk of heart disease will be eligible for a multi-point heart check-up, which will be estimated to prevent 76,500 heart attacks - 9100 of them fatal - and save $1.5 billion over the next five years.
Medicare will provide a rebate of $72.80 for the half-hour service, in which a GP will check a patient's blood pressure, cholesterol, lifestyle factors, smoking status and family history then estimate their risk of a heart attack in the next five years.
Those found to be at risk could be put on medication or helped to change their lifestyle to eat better and exercise more.
In addition the Morrison Government will provide $220 million from its Medical Research Future Fund for research into heart disease and to discover new treatments.
Labor leader Mr Shorten hailed our campaign as he pledged to make heart disease a priority and provide the $170 million needed to fund the heart health check if he wins this year's federal election.
"My father died from a heart attack so I know all too well the impact of this terrible disease.
51 Australians will die from heart attacks every day - that's too many mums, dads, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers.
"If we want to change this picture we need to invest in health checks - preventing heart attacks before it's too late. That's why I'm incredibly proud Labor will give every at-risk Australians the opportunity to have a heart health check."
He added: "Australia is a world leader in heart surgery and heart research - for example Victor Chang, David Craddock, the Baker Institute - and it's time we were a world leader in heart disease prevention.
"The 'Show Some Ticker' campaign has done an incredible job shining a light on Australia's leading cause of death and injury and Labor is proud to join the fight."
The bipartisan success, hailed by the Heart Foundation and also backed by the Greens, comes as a YouGov Galaxy Poll has found almost every Australian adult has at least one unhealthy habit or risk factor for a heart attack, yet only one in six people realise they are in danger.
Heart disease is Australia's leading single cause of death but unlike for cancers there is no national screening program and a government committee last year failed to approve a preventative check up.
One week ago MASTHEAD partnered with the Heart Foundation to campaign for government funding for a Heart Health Check and six other measures to reduce deaths from heart disease.
These are: boosting access to lifesaving cardiac rehabilitation programs; updating doctors' guidelines for heart health checks; funding a 10-year strategy to end rheumatic heart disease; creating a national women and heart disease campaign and one focusing on tobacco; and establishing a national nutrition strategy.
Prime Minister Morrison acknowledged the devastating nature of heart disease and said "too many Australians lose their life to heart related conditions every year"
"From April 1, we will provide additional and dedicated Medicare support for heart health checks for every Australian who needs it," he said.
"My commitment to Australians is backed up by our Government's ability to run a strong economy and get the budget into surplus. This is why we are able to back you all the way and fund the essential health services you need and Australians rely on," he said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt backed his leader, adding: "Our Government is deeply committed to tackling Australia's biggest killer - heart disease."
The Government's additional research funding - the 10-year Mission for Cardiovascular Health - will look at prevention strategies, earlier detection, reduce hospitalisations, new drug therapies, clinical trials and personalised medicine, which uses the unique DNA of a patient to develop new therapies, discover new biomarkers and understand individual risk of cardiovascular disease
Research will also look into why people who don't lead a unhealthy lifestyle or have a genetic cause suffer heart attacks. This includes young people.
The Greens are also supporting the concept of heart health checks.
"We support public funding of an integrated health check, of which a heart health check is a critical component," said Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale.
The Heart Foundation has welcomed the overwhelming political support.
"One week ago, the Heart Foundation launched a compelling campaign in partnership with News Corp to remind Australians that heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country," Heart Foundation CEO Professor John Kelly said.
"Despite significant advances in recent decades, we still lose 51 lives every day to heart disease - and we could not stand by and let that continue. We have had an incredible response, with more than 135,000 Australians completing our Heart Age Calculator, and we now also have bipartisan support for a dedicated MBS item number for Heart Health Checks.
"This is a remarkable outcome in such a short space of time, but it is also just the beginning, and we will continue working tirelessly to protect hearts and save lives. The Heart Foundation is celebrating its 60th anniversary today; what a great birthday present for us and the Australian community."
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Harry Nespolon said the new Medicare funding for a heart health check was a vital step towards better preventative health care.
"The point is there are very few activities that Medicare supports that involve prevention," he said.
"It's much better to spend money stopping people getting sick than waiting until they get sick."