Free Heart Health Checks a winner with Australians

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By Martina Simos.

Almost 440,000 Australians have either seen their doctor or have had lifesaving heart checks since April 2019, thanks to an initiative funded by the Australian Government, despite interruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Heart Health Check initiative is expected to expire in June 2023, but the Heart Foundation is calling on all Australians to sign a petition and to write to their MPs asking it to be extended.

The Check is a 20-minute appointment with a General Practitioner, aimed at detecting and preventing heart disease in Australians aged between 50 and 74.

According to the Heart Foundation, these lifesaving checks are the only Medicare items that are specific to detecting heart disease.

Heart disease remains the nation’s leading cause of death, with one Australian dying from heart disease every 30 minutes.

What is the Heart Health Check?

It’s a 20-minute check-up with your GP who will assess your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. The check also involves being asked about your lifestyle, medical and family health history.

The GP will also check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and will discuss steps to lower your risk.

Petition to Save The Medicare Health Care Check:

The Heart Foundation is calling on Australians to sign their petition to Save the Medicare Heart Health Check.

This health care check allows people aged 45 years and over, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples aged 30 + to have a holistic assessment of their risk factors.

The Heart Foundation website reports that over a five-year time frame, more than 67,000 heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease related deaths can be prevented by having Heart Health Checks.

“The Heart Health Check Medicare items (699 and 177) now face expiry on 30 June 2023 and the Federal government has not provided clear reassurance that they will be extended or made permanent,” the website says.

Photos: Supplied / Heart Foundation.

“Australia is at a critical juncture facing the expiry of the Heart Health Check Medicare items.

“If they are allowed to lapse, we abandon a decade’s worth of progress towards more effective and structured screening and management of heart disease in Australia.  

“Removing the Heart Health Check Medicare items will contribute to tens of thousands of preventable heart events and will have a devastating impact on our health system, all Australians and their families.”

The former Government introduced Heart Health Checks as a temporary item on the Medicare Benefits Schedule in 2019 and it is set to expire on 30 June 2023.

The Heart Foundation’s Healthcare Programs Manager, Natalie Raffoul, said the Heart Health Checks must continue.

The Heart Foundation’s Healthcare Programs Manager, Natalie Raffoul.

“The Check has passed the test – Australians have shown that they expect it to be there when they need it to help avoid a heart attack or stroke,” she said.

“We are optimistic that the Government will keep it available for Australians – but we are calling on Australians to support us to make sure this happens.”

“They’re the only Medicare-subsidised checks specific to the early detection and prevention of heart disease in Australia.”

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