Report: Achieving heart health targets would lead to big savings for Canada

OTTAWA, February 8, 2010 /Canada NewsWire Telbec/ - Canada could save $76.4 billion between 2005 and 2020 - an average of about $5 billion a year in health savings - if some of the targets set out by the Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan (CHHS-AP) are met, according to a Conference Board of Canada report released today at a press conference in Ottawa.

The report, The Canadian Heart Health Strategy: Risk Factors and Future Cost Implications, estimates the impact on future health expenditures if Canada were to meet the targeted reductions in heart disease and stroke risk factors outlined in the CHHS-AP report, Building a Heart Healthy Canada. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society joined with the Conference Board to release the findings today.

"By 2020, the lower prevalence rate in risk factors will contribute to a reduction of 452,000 cases of ischemic heart disease and 150,000 cases of cerebrovascular diseases," said Louis Theriault, author of the report for the Conference Board. "The cost burden of these diseases will decrease substantially, leading to cost savings for the health system, governments and the Canadian economy."

The savings average $5 billion over the years 2005 to 2020, but they accelerate up to $10 billion a year in the path laid out in the Action Plan.

The CHHS-AP asked the Conference Board to complete a national-level forecast of the costs burden of heart disease and stroke in Canada, both direct (drug, hospital and physician costs) and indirect (mortality, long-term and short-term disability and fiscal costs).

In 2005, cardiovascular diseases were estimated to be $20.9 billion in direct and indirect costs. By 2020, total costs are estimated to reach $28.3 billion (estimates in constant 2008 dollars).

"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of deaths, hospital admissions and drug costs in Canada," said Dr. Eldon Smith, who was Chair of the CHHS-AP and renowned Cardiologist. "The experts who worked hard to develop the CHHS-AP did not want it to sit on a shelf, and this analysis demonstrates that Canadians can't afford to let that happen."

The Conference Board developed two scenarios, a "business as usual" scenario with conservative risk factor prevalence targets and a CCHS-AP scenario that included the action plan's targets for modifiable risk factors.

The five CHHS-AP risk factor targets included in this analysis are:

By 2020:
- Decrease the prevalence of high blood pressure in adult Canadians aged 18-74 years by 32 per cent (from 22 per cent in 1992 to 15 per cent).
- Work with others to reduce the overall smoking rate by 25 per cent.

By 2015, achieve the following targets by working with others who have
set these targets:
- Increase the proportion of Canadian children and adults eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day by 20 per cent.
- Increase the proportion of Canadian children and adults who are physically active by 20 per cent.
- Decrease the rate of Canadian adults who are overweight/obese by 20 per cent.

Achieving these five risk factor targets would lead to a reduction of 24 per cent in ischemic heart disease prevalence, and almost 35 per cent reduction in cerebrovascular diseases prevalence.

"The Conference Board of Canada has made the case for implementing the Canadian Heart Health Strategy irrefutable," said Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "Reducing heart disease risk factors-which are common to many chronic diseases-will make tremendous strides in improving the health of both Canadians and our economy."

"Every day, cardiovascular physicians see how patients living with, and dying from, heart disease exalts a human toll that is incalculable," said Dr. Charles Kerr, President of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. "The savings that would be achieved through an investment in the Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan and risk factor reduction makes perfect sense. We must achieve these targets not only for financial reasons, but to maintain the quality of life of Canadians and to prevent unnecessary, premature death and disability."

The report is publicly available at the Conference Board's e-library, www.e-library.ca.