Cardiovascular specialists unite to tackle the war against heart disease

24 Nov 2015
Cardiovascular specialists unite to tackle the war against heart disease

Australian cardiovascular disease (CVD) specialists are today warning against apathy toward CVD research in light of an apparent ‘disease fatigue’ that has robbed the sector of funding momentum, through the creation of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA) – a national alliance of high-profile researchers. 

The ACvA aims to be Australia’s peak leadership body for the advancement of research into heart, stroke and vascular disease and will lobby as a united voice to advocate for critical attention in this space. 

ACvA Board Member and Treasurer, Professor Stephen Nicholls, who is the Deputy Director and Heart Health Theme Leader at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) said that in the past, we have been lucky to have had some wins over the years in the war against cardiovascular disease. 

“Many of those wins have involved Australian researchers who lead the world in their respective fields,” Professor Nicholls said. 

“Yet, it remains a leading cause of death and hospitalisation in this country and consumes increasing health care resources, so the war continues. Funding research into cardiovascular disease should be a national priority and the Alliance will represent a big step forward in spreading that message.” 

“We are continually seeking funding to tackle this war on cardiovascular disease, however, with funding to heart health research institutes all around Australia on the decline, it became apparent that a national alliance was necessary.” 

Research is critical to better prevention, diagnosis and early treatment. In recent years, Australian researchers have pioneered early identification of patients who are at highest risk of a heart attack, made discoveries to reduce babies being born with congenital heart defects and developed techniques in heart transplantation to increase the number of heart donors. 

But despite clear analysis showing that heart and vessel disease provides returns on research investment greater than any other major disease burden, this sector consistently receives proportionately less support from philanthropic and public sectors. 

From 2008 – 2013, the proportion of NHMRC funding to CVD research hovered at around 14.5 per cent of overall national health research funding. 

As one of SAHMRI’s seven main research areas, the Heart Health Theme led by Professor Nicholls will greatly benefit from the formation of the ACvA. The team works to bring together laboratory based scientists, clinical researchers and clinical trialists to develop translational research programs that will seek to improve our ability to tackle the major challenges of diseases of blood vessels, diseases that lead to heart failure and electrical disorders of the heart. 

In addition to Professor Nicholls, almost 120 heart experts have already become members of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, with many more expected to join. 

Quick facts about the ACvA: 

The founding Board of the ACvA includes: 

  • Professor Jaye Chin-Dusting, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Founding Chairman 

  • Research Associate Professor Livia Hool, University of Western Australia, Secretary 

  • Professor Stephen Nicholls, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), The University of Adelaide and Royal Adelaide Hospital, Treasurer 

  • Professor Jon Golledge, James Cook University 

  • Professor Tom Marwick, Menzies Institute for Medical Research 

  • Professor Kerry-Anne Rye, University of New South Wales 

  • Professor Bob Graham, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute 

The remit of the ACvA is to: 

  • Advocate for increased peer-reviewed funding for research into heart, stroke and vascular disease 

  • Represent cardiovascular researchers in advocacy to State and Federal Governments 

  • Increase the visibility of cardiovascular diseases as a National Health Priority Area with the general public 

  • Promote strong collaboration between cardiovascular researchers nationally 

The ACvA has two types of memberships and will accept applications from both individuals and organisations. For more information, visit