Press Release

Martin underlines commitment to tackling Cardiovascular Disease

Significant benefits on the €57 million investment in implementing the Cardiovascular Health Strategy were outlined today by Mr Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children prior to the start of the 57th World Health Assembly in Geneva.  Issues to be discussed include the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.

Living with heart disease is an everyday reality for thousands of Irish people and their families.  That is why in July 1999 the Government launched a blueprint, “Building Healthier Hearts” to address this important cause of sickness and death.  However, this is not just a problem in Ireland.  Death rates from cardiovascular disease remain high at around 4 out of every 10 deaths in the European Union.

“Our current Presidency of the European Union has given us the opportunity to share experiences, challenges and successes in tackling heart disease with other Member States,” said the Minister.

Achievements in Ireland

“Funding has provided for the appointment of almost 800 additional staff to support the Strategy´s implementation, including funding for 19 additional consultant cardiology posts. 109 extra cardiac rehabilitation staff are in place which means most acute hospitals treating people with heart disease have a structured cardiac rehabilitation service. 139 health promotion officers have also been appointed who provide guidance on smoking cessation, nutrition and exercise. Across the board, the additional staff will guarantee greater access to services and quality patient care in the future across all regions” said the Minister.

The Minister outlined that arising from the Strategy´s implementation and the monitoring system adopted to track its progress, “immediate benefits are evident from the wide range of new and higher quality services already available from this investment”. These include:

  • reduction in emergency call to treatment times,
  • regional self-sufficiency for non-invasive diagnostic procedures,
  • access to new services such as the Heartwatch programme, which since introduced last October is recruiting 14,000 patients with identified coronary heart disease and diabetes
  • the development chest pain clinics and cardiac rehabilitation,
  • almost 200% increase in certain cardiology procedures and the 24% reduction in the waiting list for cardiology procedures, and
  • the increase in the numbers now being detected and treated with chronic heart failure.

Achievements in EU

“Through the implementation of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy, Ireland has shown leadership in its approach to heart health.  Ireland is the first country in the world to introduce such far reaching smoke-free workplace legislation.  In addition, significant agreements have been reached in the area of cardiovascular health during the Irish Presidency of the EU,” said the Minister.

At a conference on Promoting Heart Health last February, conclusions were reached on the best approaches for promoting heart health and tackling heart disease across the EU. The recommendations from this consensus will contribute to a better quality of life for EU Citizens and a decline in death rates from heart disease.  The conclusions from this conference will be brought to the EU Health Council meeting next month.

Earlier this month the Minister hosted a meeting to agree European data standards for priority databases in clinical cardiology practice. This agreement is an essential step towards improving the quality of care for cardiac patients through the adoption of a consistent approach to collecting information in every EU country.  In establishing a model for best practice in terms of cardiac standards, a template is being created  that can be translated and adapted right across the health care spectrum for other diseases such as cancer and respiratory diseases.

The Minister expressed satisfaction at the agreements reached during the Irish Presidency and reiterated the Government´s commitment to continuing the implementation of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy in line with the principles of the National Health Strategy, Quality and Fairness.