Australian study links heart failure to disadvantage

Australia’s have-nots are predicted to be 32% more likely to suffer cardiovascular events over the next decade compared to the have-nots, according to new modeling led by Melbourne’s Monash University.

An Australian has a heart attack or stroke every four minutes. Together, they represent approximately 25,000 deaths per year.

The risk factors are well known: high blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, poor diet, alcoholism, lack of exercise and obesity.

What is less known, however, is that socioeconomic status also has a major impact on cardiovascular health. Things like income, education, employment status, and environmental factors, including the availability of healthy foods, recreational spaces, and social support.

Yet it’s not just about who is in the firing line, according to Associate Professor Zanfina Ademi.

“The magnitude of the difference between socioeconomic groups highlights the societal burden of inequality in health care outcomes and the urgent need to implement structural prevention strategies targeting disadvantaged groups who, at in turn, will provide a net economic benefit,” she says.

“Immediate policies are needed to reduce the burden of health inequities.”

Research undertaken by Professor Ademi and PhD student Clara Marquina reveals that the acute healthcare costs of cardiovascular events among the most needy between 2021 and 2030 will result in $183 million.

The loss of productivity involved is equivalent to $959 million.

Their calculations are based on projections for Australians aged 40 to 79.

The goal of the work is to inform structural interventions that address risk factors and reduce the possibility of heart disease in the most vulnerable.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and disability worldwide.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows the cost to life and the country’s economy is significant, accounting for 26% of deaths in 2018 and 9% of healthcare spending in 2015-2016.

Monash’s model provides a platform for bringing socioeconomic status into the equation by estimating which interventions are likely to yield the greatest demographic benefits.

“The persistence of health inequalities is pervasive, even in countries where health care is universal,” Prof Ademi said.

“In Australia, despite the theoretical universality of the health system and interventions targeting individual risk factors such as smoking, the equity gap remains.”

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