Caring for country hearts

  • Professor Robyn Clark with an avatar nurse from the My Heart Attack Action Plan avatar teaching app.
    Professor Robyn Clark with an avatar nurse from the My Heart Attack Action Plan avatar teaching app.
  • Professor Robyn Clark and her research team.
    Professor Robyn Clark and her research team.
By
National Heart Foundation of Australia
Dr Victoria Leitch,
Senior Medical Writer;
Holly Zlatic, Research Engagement Assistant;
Professor Robyn Clark, Flinders University
Issue
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Having one cardiac event is life-changing. Imagine the effect of having a second.

Cardiac rehabilitation – a program of support, exercise and education delivered by health professionals – has been shown to reduce the risk of having a second event and improve the quality of life of heart patients after a heart event has occurred.

Despite the proven effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation, it is being chronically under-utilised.

Professor Robyn Clark and her dynamic team of emerging cardiovascular disease research leaders are working hard to find out why this is and how they can do something about it. Their ultimate goal is to reduce the risk of repeat heart attacks occurring in people living in rural and regional areas.

This particular research is being done as members of a National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Project (GNT1169893) – the Country Heart Attack Prevention (CHAP) project. Overall, the CHAP project will implement a new way to deliver cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention guidelines for rural and remote patients. Professor Clark’s contribution is to use her research findings in an aim to boost completion of cardiac rehabilitation in rural and remote areas; engage clinicians to recommend cardiac rehabilitation; develop an auto-referral system; provide a range of delivery methods including face to face, telephone support, apps, websites and primary care models; improve the quality of care and evaluation of outcomes to international standards; and improve long-term support for heart health for all people living in Australia.

This research is making an impact. The My Heart Attack Action Plan avatar teaching app, developed by the team, uses an avatar, which is a digital character that can interact with the user via facial expressions, body language and speech. It has been shown to improve a patient’s knowledge about their heart condition and their ability to spot and act on symptoms. The app is adaptable to a user’s own heart attack action plan and can be translated into 144 languages. This will allow more people to access potentially life-saving resources following their heart attack.  

Professor Clark and her team have also recently entered a competition with a video promoting cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention of heart events. You can watch the video (along with some other great entries) at solvechd.org.au/cardiac-rehabilitation-video-competition-2023-entries

Professor Clark is one of the many Heart Foundation funded researchers improving the lives of people living in rural and regional Australia. She has a Partnership Engagement Grant that is due to be completed mid–2023.

The Heart Foundation is Australia’s largest non-governmental funder of research into heart health. Since its establishment in 1959, the Heart Foundation has invested over $650 million dollars to improve the heart health and lives of people living in Australia and around the world.

One of the Heart Foundation’s key focuses is promoting health equity, and this is reflected by the inclusion of health equity requirements in our grant applications. This ensures that communities who may be disproportionately affected by heart disease are considered and addressed. One of these health equity areas is regional, rural and remote populations. Other health equity areas include socioeconomic disadvantage, cultural and linguistic diversity, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and gender.

For more information on Heart Foundation Research funding visit: www.heartfoundation.org.au/bundles/our-research

For more information on the CHAP project visit: www.chapproject.com.au

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