Pilot project ‘could halve heart and stroke deaths’

DEATHS caused by Ireland’s biggest killers - heart attack and stroke - could be halved using a range of preventative interventions, a unique pilot project has indicated.

The Reduction of Heart Attack and Stroke through Prevention programme (RHASP) has the potential to prevent heart attack and stroke in more than 2,000 high risk patients, according to a report on its success.

RHASP, an 18-month pilot scheme run in six general practices on the north side of Dublin, yesterday recommended extending the programme to other areas after it proved highly successful in detecting and preventing heart disease.

The report by Professor John Cairns, Professor of Health Economics at the London School of Hygiene, showed RHASP achieved its primary objectives, with the potential to halve strokes and heart attacks.

“On this basis it is possible to estimate that if 20,000 high-risk patients in the Eastern Regional Health Authority were managed within the RHASP programme over a 10-year period, this would result in the prevention of 1,500 heart attacks and 750 strokes,” Prof Cairns said.

RHASP was co-ordinated jointly by the Department of Health, Beaumont Hospital, General Practice and dabl Ltd. The project used IT and evidence-based guidelines for treatment and shared care between specialists, GPs, nurses and patients with cardiovascular complaints.

“The pilot supports the view that the opportunity to reduce events of heart attack and stroke through evidence-based prescribing of cardio-protective medication and by reducing and maintaining reductions of blood pressure and cholesterol to pre-determined goals, together with lifestyle changes, is realistic and achievable,” said Professor Eoin O’Brien, who co-ordinated RHASP at Beaumont hospital.

Health Minister Mary Harney indicated RHASP would be a central component of future healthcare strategies for addressing cardiovascular disease, which resulted in 41% of all Irish deaths in 2001.

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