Current estimates have cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounting for 17 million deaths annually

Renowned public health specialist, Professor Stephen Leeder, will present the central findings of a report highlighting the disturbing trend towards a growth in cardiovascular disease in developing countries, at a special colloquium to be held at The University of Sydney.

Cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke are fast becoming a major issue in developing countries. Current estimates have cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounting for 17 million deaths annually, compared to a death rate from HIV/AIDS of 3 million. International agencies committed to improving global health have overlooked heart disease and stroke and many developing countries have not created programs to control these diseases.

The potential devastating impact of CVD has been examined in a major report A Race Against Time: The Significance of Cardiovascular Disease in Developing Economies co-authored by Professor Stephen Leeder, Director of the Australian Health Policy Institute.

'By 2020 there will be a billion people in the world aged over 65. As the global population ages, cardiovascular disease is set to become the leading cause of death and disability worldwide and is threatening to overwhelm health care systems. Developing countries are witnessing the devastation to their workforces that Australia and other western countries experienced 50 years ago,' said Professor Leeder.

'We can now do much to prevent cardiovascular disease and ameliorate its impact. Cigarette smoking, an unhealthy diet, elevated blood lipids, hypertension, overweight, and lack of exercise, account for over 75 per cent of cardiovascular disease. They are amenable to medical treatment and individual and societal choices. We need research urgently into the best ways of managing and preventing cardiovascular disease in developing countries.'

Professor Stephen MacMahon, Principal Director of The George Institute for International Health said that Australia has an obligation to help developing countries, particularly those in the Asia Pacific region, reduce the burden of CVD.

'With their fragile health systems, low to middle income countries are ill-equipped to deal with the growing burden of diseases such as heart attack and stroke,' said Professor MacMahon.

'As one of the wealthiest countries in the Asia Pacific region, Australia is in a good position to help less developed countries in our part of the world get up to speed in dealing with CVD. If we don't, the economic and social impact will be felt by the entire region.'

Professor Stephen MacMahon will discuss some of the successful CVD projects being undertaken by The George Institute in developing countries while Dr Alan Cass, Director of the Policy and Practice Division at The George Institute, will compare the burden of chronic vascular diseases among Indigenous Australians with that among people in developing countries. Dr Paul Magnus, Medical Adviser, AIHW will provide a comparative overview of the implications of the report in terms of Australian information on CVD.

The report is available online at: http://www.earth.columbia.edu/news/2004/images/raceagainsttime_FINAL_0410404.pdf

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