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Developing a global agenda for action on cardiovascular diseases

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Australian health policy can and should address, as a core aim, cardiovascular health in less economically advanced nations

Cardiovascular diseases have snatched the mantle of top-priority global health problem from infectious diseases including tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. This is because of the deaths attributable to cardiovascular diseases, the years of life lost, and the longer-term disability from heart failure and stroke.1 While deaths due to cardiovascular diseases among people younger than 65 years have fallen dramatically in the past 50 years in Australia, in less economically advanced communities one-third of these deaths occur among people younger than 65 years.2

Cardiovascular diseases are potent widow- and orphan-makers. Particularly in developing communities, they can precipitate poverty. The cost of care in communities lacking affordable health insurance and effective primary care can be catastrophic.

The effect on a nation’s lost productivity and growth is no less disastrous. Every 10% rise in chronic non-communicable diseases is estimated to bring a 0.5% decrease in economic growth.3