Urgent call for a co-ordinated national heart health action plan


Urgent call for a co-ordinated national heart health action plan

Media release from The Heart Foundation
Heart Foundation White Paper image

The Heart Foundation says there is an urgent need for a national action plan for heart health and is calling for cross-party support for Government to develop one.

Including hypertension, almost one million Kiwis are living with cardiovascular disease and it is the leading cause of death and disability in New Zealand.

“We urgently need a co-ordinated national action plan to improve heart health outcomes and address systemic barriers and inequities,” says Heart Foundation Medical Director, Dr Gerry Devlin.

Ten thousand New Zealanders die from cardiovascular disease each year, and almost one in four of these deaths could be avoided with effective strategies for prevention, diagnosis and timely treatment and care.

Access to healthcare is not equal. The most at-risk populations, especially Māori, Pacific and low-income New Zealanders, are still the least likely to access health care when it matters the most. Māori and Pacific people are 1.3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, and four times more likely to die of heart disease before the age of 65 than non-Māori. And those with severe mental illness are up to three times more likely to die from heart disease.

A Heart Foundation White Paper ‘Improving heart health outcomes for New Zealand’ is being launched at Parliament on Tuesday 4 August and recommends five key areas that can reduce the burden of heart disease and improve inequities in healthcare.

These include, prevention, early detection and management, timely access to effective care and support, improvements in survival rates for heart events and creating a more transparent and accountable health system.

In support of the launch, Heart Foundation staff will be at Parliament providing heart health checks for MPs, parliamentary staff and others.

Improving heart health outcomes for New Zealand
White Paper Recommendation

The Heart Foundation recommends a national heart health action plan focuses on five key areas that build on current strengths and have the potential to significantly reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke on all New Zealanders.


  • Implement stronger actions to set-up healthier lives from childhood, reduce smoking, create a healthier food system and empower healthier lives.
  • Maintain commitment to Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, improve public awareness about good nutrition and work with communities on actions for healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight.

Early detection and management of heart disease

  • All New Zealanders must have access to regular heart health risk assessment checks in line with current guidelines.
  • Implement targeted community/workplace risk screening for heart disease with focus on high-risk populations.

Timely access to effective care and support

  • Work with communities at high risk of heart disease and stroke to better understand and overcome the barriers to accessing health care.
  • Ensure all New Zealanders with heart disease and stroke have sustainable and timely access to evidence-based treatment, care and support.


  • Educate New Zealanders about early warning symptoms of heart disease and stroke, and how to access appropriate health care promptly.
  • Introduce CPR and AED training as part of the school curriculum to increase rates of bystander CPR, improve access to early defibrillation and achieve better outcomes for people suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

A more transparent and accountable health system

  • The health system must track performance towards preventing, screening, treating and reducing heart disease, act on the information and share information with the New Zealand public.