Ireland lacks a national plan for cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is a leading cause of death and major acute events. Yet most cases of CVD, and many of the hospital admissions and deaths it causes, are avoidable.
Each year, nearly 9,000 people in Ireland lose their lives to CVD, yet an estimated 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable. Although mortality rates from CVD in Ireland have declined over time, they are projected to rise again as a result of Ireland’s ageing population and the higher risk associated with increasingly prevalent conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
A greater focus on prevention across the whole spectrum of CVD is needed to save thousands of lives each year and ease the pressure on Ireland’s healthcare system.
Ireland has already made great strides in improving the health of its population and investing in CVD prevention. For example, the country has long been viewed as a world leader in smoking cessation, which is an important population-level CVD prevention strategy. Within the healthcare system, recent developments – including the implementation of national clinical programmes for stroke and heart disease – and their linkage to wider health system improvement programmes have demonstrated a policy-level commitment to addressing the burden of CVD.
Although national CVD strategies were in place from 1999 to 2019, the most recent strategy has now lapsed, has not been formally evaluated and has yet to be replaced.
Structural challenges remain across the entire healthcare system, particularly in delivering more intensive and person-centred care and support to those living with chronic (elevated) CVD risks and long-term cardiovascular conditions. A renewed political commitment to addressing CVD, with a clear focus on prevention at all levels, is therefore urgently needed. Equally, greater prioritisation of prevention – from early detection of risk factors to preventive services for people who have been hospitalised with CVD – must be brought to the fore, as current clinical improvement programmes may not fully address the known gaps in this area.