No national plan to prevent stroke deaths

Stroke is still the second biggest cause of death in Australia.


Strokes continues to languish in terms of national health action priorities according to National Stroke Foundation CEO Erin Lalor.


Dr Lalor was commenting on the release of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s new report, Cardiovascular Disease: Australian Facts 2011 which states that cardiovascular disease in total was responsible for more deaths than any other disease group (34%) and cost $5.9 billion in 2004-05.


Stroke accounted for 19 per cent of all deaths in the cardiovascular disease group and, according to the report, stroke claimed nearly 9000 lives in 2007 alone. The most recent figures available show that 82 per cent of people who have a stroke are left with a disability.


“These figures confirm the ongoing reality that stroke is a major killer in our community yet there’s no national action plan to reduce the rate of this disease,” Dr Lalor said.


Dr Lalor said she welcomed the report’s findings that death rates for stroke had fallen. “But with an ageing population and risk factors including obesity on the increase, more needs to be done now to prevent the burden of the disease growing, community suffering increasing, and hospital costs escalating.”


Dr Lalor said that the report acknowledged the shortcomings of its data about the prevalence of stroke on page 75: ‘There are no national data on the incidence (new cases) of stroke’. The report’s stroke data is drawn from two studies conducted in 1989-1990 and 1999.


“In the absence of up-to-date figures on the incidence and prevalence of stroke in the community, it’s difficult to accurately respond to community need, or to measure the success of prevention, awareness and treatment programs in a holistic manner,” Dr Lalor said.


Dr Lalor said despite established research that showed patients who were treated in a specialised stroke unit when they presented at hospital with stroke had better outcomes, the AIHW report showed that in 2007-08 only half of the 34,945 stroke hospitalisations in Australia were treated in a stroke unit.


“The treatment of stroke patients in Australia remains inadequate, with processes known to save lives from death and disability not used in enough cases,” she said.


“The AIHW report shows there is an urgent need for federal and state governments to devote greater focus to stroke prevention, research and care – to reduce the impact of Australia’s second biggest killer.


“We look forward to the federal Government’s forthcoming response to the Birch review of cardiovascular disease and its recommendations on stroke within the broader national health reform agenda,” Dr Lalor said.


The download version of the report is available free from the AIHW web site. Click here.


22 March 2011.