When it comes to matters of the heart, the federal government and Labor are beating to the same rhythm each vowing millions to fund life-saving health checks.
One Australian dies of cardiovascular disease every 12 minutes, with one Australian experiencing a heart attack or stroke every five minutes.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten matched the $170 million over five years for general practice in Melbourne, just hours after a Liberal counterpart announced the same plan.
‘Heart disease is Australia’s silent killer,’ Mr Shorten told reporters on Sunday.
‘My father died prematurely at the age of 70 with a catastrophic heart attack. We will make sure the funding is available so that everyone who wants to get a heart health check will be able to do so.
‘It is good the government has agreed that to this proposition as well.’
The checks will be available through Medicare from April.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told Nine’s Weekend Today show it would mean ‘a better chance for people to have a proper test with their doctor’.
‘They can see whether there are any issues either around their lifestyle or whether any further action needs to be taken,’ he said.
National Heart Foundation chief executive Garry Jennings AO said it was an important announcement, not for what people will see rather what they won’t see as a result.
‘You won’t see people who seem to be going happily through life and suddenly die from coronary disease or have a heart attack,’ he said on Sunday, noting about four million Aussies with heart disease may have avoided the condition had they been checked.
AMA president Tony Bartone also welcomed the commitments.
‘The support for comprehensive health checks to tackle cardiovascular disease is an acknowledgement of the importance of general practice to preventive health care,’ Dr Bartone said, adding he looked forward to more promises ahead of the federal election.
The government also promised $35 million to develop a vaccine for rheumatic heart disease, a deadly illness largely affecting indigenous communities.
The money from the Medical Research Future Fund will allow for the manufacture and testing of vaccines as well as the fast-tracking and funding of clinical trials, a joint statement from Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt and Mr Hunt said.
‘Today is a game-changing step. Ending RHD (rheumatic heart disease) is a critical, tangible target to close the gap in indigenous life expectancy,’ Mr Wyatt said.
Australia has one of the highest incidences of RHD in the world and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 64 times more likely to develop it, a statement read.
The disease is a complication of bacterial Streptococcus A infections of the throat and skin.