China-Australia Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention

September 2010

Professor Stephen Leeder, Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University of Sydney, is leading an important new China-Australia CVD prevention collaborative designed to offer optimal care to patients leaving hospital after a heart attack or stroke. Heart attack and stroke are now highly prevalent in China; however, we know that simple drug treatment following such events can lead to much reduced death rates in the following year.

Professor StephenLeeder and Harry Wang (PhD student, environmental health), Chinese Uni of Hong Kong

The collaboration is focused on providing measurable health improvements for Chinese populations by drawing on focused expertise and experience from across the Asia-Pacific region. Together with his colleagues at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Nanjing University and Beijing University, Professor Leeder aims to launch the collaborative over the coming months.
“When patients leave hospital after a coronary episode, we know that they do much better if they receive several medications that prevent disruptions to heart rhythm and reduce the likelihood of clots,” said Professor Leeder.

“The aim of our study is to find ways in which these medications can be prescribed easily and efficiently and the patients monitored so that they continue to take the prescribed medication. We hope to see fewer people dying unnecessarily during the high-risk first couple of years following a coronary episode.”
The project arose out of an Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) initiative which seeks to stabilise the mortality and morbidity from CVD among Pacific Rim nations within ten years. Collaborations are encouraged under this initiative as powerful learning organisations which can both motivate members and which provide knowledge, skills and support.

“The rising toll of heart disease worldwide is a massive concern and requires all hands on deck to prevent where possible, and treat where people already suffer from the established disease,” said Professor Leeder.

The advantage of taking a collaborative approach with this project means that information and findings can be shared between the participating institutions, rather than having to wait for the full publication of results.

Professor Leeder met recently with representatives from the collaborating sites in China at meetings auspiced by the APRU and the World Universities Network. He sees the involvement of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Nanjing University and Beijing University as essential to the success of the study, allowing for a faster response to a growing problem.

“The Chinese centres will implement the study and then share their insights with other participants,” said Professor Leeder. “Our hope is that insights gained in one collaborating centre, say Hong Kong, could be rapidly applied in, say, Nanjing, or vice versa. Sydney will also be a collaborating centre.”

Over the past fifty years China has experienced a rapid epidemiological transition from infectious to chronic diseases, due largely in part to significant changes in diet, exercise patterns, an aging population and the entrenchment of cigarette smoking.
“All these factors add up to the creation of a society that is primed for the development of cardiovascular disease,” said Professor Leeder. “The test of the project is whether good follow-up can be put in place in China and elsewhere for people following a heart attack. That may sound easy, but it is not – resources to pay for the medications have to be found, physicians need to be enthused to do it, patients need to be educated and supported and data collected to ensure that we are monitoring its success and problems.”

The ultimate aim is to identify best practice in reducing CVD mortality rates, and lead the translation of research knowledge into policy and practice. Whilst the current project focuses on CVD and stroke in China, there is potential for a wider rollout across the Asia Pacific region in the future.

By Hamish Boland-Rudder

For more information contact Louise Freckelton
Phone: +61 2 9036 7578