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How New Zealand could be treating heart health better – The Front Page

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Heart problems are contributing to many dire health outcomes. Photo / Getty Images

Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 10,000 New Zealanders every year. What makes that even more tragic is that many of those deaths could be avoided entirely.

“An article in this month’s New Zealand Medical Journal estimates almost a quarter of those deaths are actually avoidable through better prevention and more timely access to treatments like heart failure drugs,” NZ Herald senior investigative reporter Nicholas Jones tells The Front Page podcast.

“That actually increases to half of all deaths among Māori and [Pasifika populations], so that’s sort of an extraordinary number of people dying who possibly don’t need to be dying that young.”

Other preventative steps that can also make a massive difference include changes to diet and exercise habits, says Jones.


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These staggering figures come off the back of Jones’ harrowing stories of New Zealanders who have faced incredibly long waits to receive assistance from the country’s over-burdened health sector.

“Dr Jerry Devlin, the medical director of the Heart Foundation, told me a couple of weeks ago that the wait times in cardiology are as bad as he’s seen in 25 years in New Zealand,” says Jones.

The point he makes, however, is that steps can be taken far earlier to help those most at risk of needing surgeries later in life.

“Both the Heart Foundation and the Cardiac Society, which is the professional group for cardiologists, want to see better treatment and better care earlier,” says Jones.


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Medical professionals believe there is a major gap in the funding for drugs to help people with cardiovascular problems.

“New Zealand doesn’t really fund good heart failure drugs at the moment. There’s funding available for some diabetics who are at risk of heart failure, but the foundation and the society say that every New Zealander with heart failure should be getting these drugs. That will help them live longer, better, keep them out of hospital and reduce the burden on hospitals.”

So, can the new Government make any changes quick changes to improve health outcomes? Do bickering politicians hurt progress? And could the Government’s 100-day plan relieve some of the pressure on the health sector?

Listen to the full episode of The Front Page podcast for a full rundown on the state of our health sector.

The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am. It is presented by Damien Venuto, an Auckland-based journalist with a background in business reporting who joined the Herald in 2017.

You can follow the podcast at iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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