Cardiovascular disease - a milestone report

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills almost 54,000 Australians each year and remains one of Australia's greatest health problems. To date national reporting has focused on risk factors and deaths but Medical Care of Cardiovascular Disease in Australia changes the focus to monitoring the medical management of CVD.

The latest in the AIHW's CVD series, Medical Care of Cardiovascular Disease in Australia, describes data sources available to monitor medical care, and assesses their uses and limitations. It also gives information on the prevalence of CVD conditions in the community, their care in general practice and in hospital, drugs used to treat these conditions, the costs of cardiovascular health care, and the size of the specialised medical labour force involved with CVD.

Up till now there has been relatively little examination of CVD treatment. Medical Care of Cardiovascular Disease in Australia is the first report to highlight the full range of information about CVD. It will be followed by reports examining two specific treatments, cardiac surgery and coronary angioplasty.

Co-author of the report, Ms Senes-Ferrari said 'some idea of the impact of CVD in the community can be gauged by considering that it was at least one of the conditions diagnosed for almost 20% of all public acute and private hospitalisations in 1995-96. Also, CVD was the second most common problem seen by GPs in 1990-91.'

The report also shows the dramatic cost impact of modern drugs used to treat CVD. Ms Senes-Ferrari said that 'between 1990 and 1995 the total cost of subsidised prescriptions for ACE inhibitors, which are used for high blood pressure, increased from $158 million to $270 million, and the cost of lipid lowering drugs rose from $49 million to $178 million.'

Other findings in the report include:

  • In 1993-94, health care costs for CVD were 12% ($3,719 million) of the total health care costs for all diseases. Health care costs of CVD increased with age, with two-thirds of the total CVD costs being for those aged over 64.
  • In 1995, over 2.8 million Australians suffered from a CVD condition, high blood pressure being the most commonly reported condition.
  • In 1995-96 the average length of stay in hospital for a CVD condition was 6.6 days, with the average stay for stroke being 12.5 days. This compared with 4.3 days on average for all conditions.


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