Thought Leadership Forum on Cardiovascular Disease

HPP initiated this innovative forum with the aim of accelerating policy leadership and transformation in cardiovascular disease.


Over the past 50 years, European countries have seen consistent growth in life expectancy, largely due to improvements in the management of cardiovascular disease (CVD). But this progress has stalled, and the number of people dying from CVD is steadily rising. This is a serious concern for the future of our societies and health systems.

CVD takes a huge toll on people’s lives and costs European countries billions of euros. CVD is Europe’s leading cause of death, accounting for 45% of all deaths in 2017. But a high proportion of these are preventable, either through addressing modifiable risk factors or improving access to high-quality care and disease management.

If we know how to prevent and manage CVD, why aren’t we doing it? There is no easy answer, but it is telling that despite the huge structural barriers to securing consistent guideline-based cardiovascular care for all who need it, political awareness of CVD appears to be low. Many national plans and strategies in this area are outdated, or lack concrete investment and implementation measures.

There have recently been signs of renewed interest in CVD. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on front-line care services, but has also been a wake-up call for governments to reconsider the resilience and sustainability of our health systems. We urgently need greater clarity as to what effective CVD policies might look like.

What we’ve achieved

HPP initiated the Thought Leadership Forum on Cardiovascular Disease in 2022. The project is advised by a multidisciplinary group of senior stakeholders seeking to ignite greater political urgency in CVD. It was established to stimulate new strategic debates in CVD to ultimately accelerate policy leadership and health system transformation in the societal interest.

This programme of work has been initiated with the publication of a discussion paper, Making the case for political urgency in cardiovascular disease. The paper provides the context and rationale for this work and a public statement of intent. It focuses on four types of CVD: atherosclerotic CVD, atrial fibrillation, heart failure and heart valve disease.

In July 2022, we published a think piece, Finding inspiration within prominent national cardiovascular disease plans, aiming to establish a clearer picture of existing strategic responses to CVD by national governments. We identified nine prominent examples of national CVD plans and explored the common themes within them, highlighting areas of inspiration.

This was followed by a second think piece, The heart of society: why addressing cardiovascular disease is critical to achieving wider societal goals, published in September 2022. The think piece seeks to address a major knowledge gap by exploring the links between CVD and wider societal priorities such as: healthy ageing and economic growth, COVID-19 recovery and health system resilience, and health inequalities.

In November 2022, we hosted a webinar based on the themes of the two think pieces. The event – ‘A new future for cardiovascular health: how do we unite decision-makers behind the next generation of national CVD plans?’ – featured speakers from the CVD community and beyond, considering how best to make the case to governments that a strong response to CVD is essential. At the event, we launched an action statement summarising key findings from the Thought Leadership Forum on Cardiovascular Disease and highlighting progressive actions to shape the future of CVD policy in Europe.

To find out more about the Thought Leadership Forum on Cardiovascular Disease, please contact us at [email protected]

Key partners and stakeholders

The following people contributed to the development of one or both of the think pieces Finding inspiration within prominent national cardiovascular disease plans and The heart of society: why addressing cardiovascular disease is critical to achieving wider societal goals:

Forum participants

  • Dr Jane Barratt, Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing
  • Birgit Beger, CEO, European Heart Network
  • Neil Johnson, CEO, Croí and the Irish National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health; Executive Director, Global Heart Hub
  • Professor Ilona Kickbusch, Founder and Chair, Global Health Centre, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
  • Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder and Trustee, Arrhythmia Alliance; Founder and CEO, AF Association and STARS (Syncope Trust and Reflex anoxic Seizures)
  • Dr Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow, The King’s Fund
  • Dr Anneke Schmider, Associate Fellow, Chatham House, Centre for Global Health
  • Professor Laurence Sperling, Katz Professor in Preventive Cardiology; Founder, Emory Center for Heart Disease Prevention; Professor of Global Health, Emory University, US

Funder representatives

  • Verena Kantel, Head, Pharma Public Affairs, Bayer AG
  • Sean Lybrand, Executive Director, International Health Systems Policy, Amgen
  • Lena Lymperopoulou, Global Franchise Policy Head, Cardiorenal Metabolic, Novartis Pharma
  • Alan Reba, Vice President, Worldwide Cardiovascular, Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Pia Vornholt, Director, Global Public Affairs and Patient Relations, Novo Nordisk


  • Professor John Beard, Professor in Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) and the Ageing Asia Research Hub, University of New South Wales Sydney; Former Director of Ageing and Life Course, WHO
  • Professor Huon Gray CBE, Former National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England
  • Professor Panos Kanavos, Associate Professor of International Health Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); Deputy Director, LSE Health
  • Professor Garry Jennings, Senior Director, Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute, Australia; Member of the Australian Cardiovascular Health Mission Expert Panel
  • Jules Payne, CEO, Heart UK
  • Professor Peter Vasko, Chair, SWEDEHEART, Sweden

Project funding

This initiative is made possible with financial support from Amgen, Bayer AG, Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Pharma AG and Novo Nordisk. The funders are also contributing members of the initiative.