Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s leading killer. It accounted for 30% of deaths around the globe in 2010 at an estimated total economic cost of over US$850bn.he common feature of the disease across the world is its disproportionate impact on individuals from lower socio-economic groups.

Prevention could greatly reduce the spread of CVD: reduced smoking rates, improved diets and other primary prevention efforts are responsible for at least half of the reduction in CVD in developed countries in recent decades.

Yet prevention is little used. Governments devote only a small proportion of health spending to prevention of diseases of any kind—typically 3% in developed countries.

“If we put in practice what we already know [about prevention], we would be doing very well indeed,” Susanne Løgstrup, director of the European Heart Network- an EPHA member organisation.

Population-wide measures like smoking bans and “fat taxes” yield significant results but require political adeptness to succeed. There is no shortcut for the slow work of changing hearts and minds.

The size of the CVD epidemic is such that a doctor-centred health system will not be able to cope. Innovative ways for nurses and non-medical personnel to provide preventative services are needed.

A growing number of stakeholders are involved in CVD prevention, sharing the burden with governments. Now, greater collaboration across different sectors and interest groups should be encouraged. Collaboration works when incentives of stakeholders are aligned, including business. Finland’s famed North Karelia project suggests better alignment of interests is crucial to a successful “multi-sectoral” approach.

- REPORT: The heart of the matter Rethinking prevention of cardiovascular disease.

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Last modified on November 25 2013.