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Project launched to defuse “Heart health bomb”

Media release

Project launched to defuse “Heart health bomb”

A project to help defuse a looming “heart health bomb” was launched in Hawke’s Bay today.

The two-day seminar in Napier marks the beginning of the “One Heart Many Lives”campaign in Hawke’s Bay. Implemented by the Hawke’s Bay DHB, the campaign uses resources developed by PHARMAC, and relies on cooperation across the health sector in the region, including Hawke’s Bay PHOs and the Ministry of Social Development.

Heart disease is already New Zealand’s biggest killer, accounting for about 40% of all deaths – a staggering 20 times more deaths than the road toll.

In Hawke’s Bay, heart disease is the No.1 health priority. Diseases of the heart account for three of the top 10 causes of hospitalisations.

Speakers at today’s opening included Hawke’s Bay-based Minister of Internal Affairs Rick Barker, National Heart Foundation Medical Director Professor Norman Sharpe, Hawke’s Bay Medical Officer of Health Dr Caroline McElnay and PHARMAC’s Medical Director Dr Peter Moodie.

Professor Sharpe warned of a looming public health crisis in cardiac care. He warned that current trends, particularly related to Maori men, lifestyle choices and demographics indicated New Zealand was heading for a “heart health bomb” in the near future.

Maori men have higher rates of heart disease and are affected at a younger age than non-Maori. On average they die 8-10 years earlier than their non-Maori counterparts. This gap has been growing given non-Maori rates of heart disease have been falling, Professor Sharpe told the conference.

“These trends look like continuing into the future and the disease burden will fall increasing inequitably upon Maori men,” Professor Sharpe said.

The campaign targets Maori and Pacific men aged 35 and over, with the message that one heart affects many people’s lives. Not only do individuals die, but fathers, brothers and leaders in the community are lost.

PHARMAC’s Dr Peter Moodie says the grim statistics illustrate why PHARMAC has worked with the Hawke’s Bay DHB to roll-out the One Heart Many Lives campaign.

“The figures illustrate exactly why it is important to have this campaign in places like Hawke’s Bay,” says Dr Moodie.

“This campaign has been successfully piloted in areas like Gisborne, Rotorua, and Porirua where there are areas of high need in cardiovascular health. In those areas, it has been successful in promoting awareness among Maori and Pacific men, and encouraging them to have checkups with their doctors, make lifestyle changes or, where appropriate, take medicines to address cardiovascular risk factors.”

The two-day seminar brings together people working in cardiac health in Hawke’s Bay. Participants will share information that will help develop community-led initiatives. Dr Moodie says the success of the campaign is largely attributable to it being embraced within the community by dedicated health professionals who are keen to address important needs with targeted approaches.

PHARMAC is also working with the Northland DHB to extend the campaign into the Far North later this year.


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