Heart Health Checks: increasing uptake in regional and remote Australia

  • Dr Kate Murton (Public Health Registrar) and Charlie Sheridan (Cardiovascular Risk Community Awareness Coordinator) at Timberlink, Mount Gambier. [Photo credit: The Border Watch (borderwatch.com.au)]

Dr Kate Murton (Public Health Registrar) and Charlie Sheridan (Cardiovascular Risk Community Awareness Coordinator)
at Timberlink, Mount Gambier. [Photo credit: The Border Watch (borderwatch.com.au)]

National Heart Foundation of Australia
Dr Marie Ludlow and
Dr Jasmine Just

Launched in early 2021, the Heart Foundation’s Connecting Hearts Strategy 2021–2023 outlines how we will achieve our vision of an Australia free of heart disease. In 2022, we will continue to boost our impact under the themes of research, risk reduction and support for people with heart disease. Our Strategy emphasises our commitment to tackling heart disease in at-risk groups, including women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people living in regional and remote areas of Australia.

In 2022, one of our key priorities is to ensure more eligible Australians have a Heart Health Check with their general practitioner (GP). With the aim of identifying people who are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke, the Heart Health Check is available to those aged 45 years and over, and from 30 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. During a Heart Health Check, a person’s GP will measure their blood pressure and cholesterol, and identify any modifiable risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol intake. This information is used to estimate a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next five years and, more importantly, the steps people can take to reduce their risk.

Our work in 2022 will build on our success with last year’s initiatives to motivate more people to see their GP for a Heart Health Check. In June 2021, the Heart Foundation completed an initiative to deliver education workshops to raise heart health awareness in regional and remote South Australia. With funding from Country South Australia Primary Health Network (Country SA PHN), over 100 face-to-face presentations were delivered to 1,875 community members. We were able to spread the message far and wide, including Kangaroo Island and the remote mining sites of Moomba.

Four out of five workshop participants identified a specific goal to improve their heart health. Goals focused on improving diet (reported by 43 per cent), increasing physical activity (37 per cent), and booking a Heart Health Check with their GP (34 per cent).

In early 2021, the Heart Foundation launched a Heart Health Check Toolkit to support general practice teams to integrate potentially life-saving Heart Health Checks into routine care. The Toolkit includes a range of resources, such as guidance on cardiovascular disease risk factor screening and assessment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

As of November 2021, the Toolkit has been accessed by over 32,000 users.

Over the remaining two years of our Connecting Hearts Strategy, we will continue this important work. In 2022, we will help more Australians, including those living in regional and remote communities, to reduce their risk of heart disease by:

  • giving regional and remote general practices the opportunity to participate in the next phase of our National Heart Health Check Recall Program. Known as Text to Detect, this program will consolidate last year’s success, through which over 42,000 Australians received a personalised text message on their mobile phone to invite them to get a Heart Health Check
  • improving access to Heart Foundation Walking, Australia’s largest free walking network. We will focus on increasing uptake of our Personal Walking Plans in regional and remote communities
  • continuing our clinical education webinars to provide updates on the latest evidence and practice advice. To date, over 11,000 health professionals have viewed our webinar series, with our latest event attracting 34 per cent of attendees from rural and remote areas.

Visit our website for more information about Heart Health Checks and to explore the Heart Health Check Toolkit.

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