New heart screening project for regional Tasmania

Menzies Research Institute Tasmania today launched a new heart screening program that will help save lives in regional Tasmania.

The program has been made possible thanks to a Tasmanian Community Fund (TCF) grant – the 2000th grant awarded by the Fund – of $150,000 and the support of technological company, Siemens.

The purpose of the project is to run a screening program for early stage heart disease and trial the use of protective therapy to limit the development of heart failure in patients over the age of 65 and living in regional Tasmania.

Menzies’ Director, Professor Tom Marwick, will head up the statewide three-year screening project.

“Heart failure has reached epidemic proportions in Australia, especially among the elderly and commonly in rural environments,” says Professor Marwick.

“In the program’s first year we anticipate studying 800 patients with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, past cancer therapy or known cardiac disease within rural Tasmania.

“The initial focus will be in the Huon and Oatlands areas but our intent is to make linkages across the State.

“Tomorrow we are heading off down to Huonville for our first community information session and the following week we will begin screening in area.

“It is difficult to diagnose and manage heart failure without echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart),” he said.

“But requiring this imaging is particularly a burden for the elderly and those living in rural areas, who would usually need to travel to major cities for the testing.”

“Thanks to the Tasmanian Community Fund and Siemens we are now able to take heart screening to regional Tasmanians.

“Having this technology is very important to us as heart failure is increasing in Tasmania and is among the most frequent causes of hospital admissions and related health costs,” he said.

Professor Marwick said the Institute planned to show the benefit of testing by recruitment of “at risk” subjects from the community and randomising them to a screening program based on echocardiography.

“In doing so, we also hope to trial the idea that such a service might pay for itself by avoidance of hospital admission and ill-health,” he said.

“Patients with abnormalities will be entered into a program of cardio-protective therapy, supervised by their general practitioner.
TCF chairwoman Lynn Mason said the grant was significant for the TCF and Menzies.

“The research is important for rural and regional Tasmania where the availability of the screening process was very limited,” she said.

“Menzies contributes significantly to human health and wellbeing and has a strong record in delivering resources to the community.

“If successful, this project will be run by GPs in a community setting which will help identify early stage heart failure and ultimately, reduce the disability and symptom burden from this disease.

“It is entirely appropriate that Menzies is the recipient of the 2000th grant because of the benefit the project will deliver to the community.”

Siemens Australia Vice President Healthcare, Michael Shaw said that access to quality healthcare is important for creating a sustainable healthcare system that focuses on prevention.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for patients to get access to quality healthcare, no matter where they live. For Siemens it’s important to be involved with initiatives such as the Menzies’ heart screening program that takes technology on the road to rural Tasmania and provides much needed early detection and prevention for heart disease.

“Our ultrasound significantly reduces the time taken to detect heart disease and provides an on-the-spot diagnosis,” Mr Shaw said.

Menzies is seeking volunteers for the study who are aged 65 and over; no previous heart failure; live in regional Tasmania and; suffer from either diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, family history of heart failure or previously undertaken past cancer therapy. For more information visit Menzies TAS-ELF Study or contact Hilda Yang on +61 3 6226 4265 or [email protected]