Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is Australia's biggest killer and a leading cause of disability. In 2008, there were 48,456 deaths from CVD in Australia (34% of all deaths nationally).1 There have been significant gains in recent decades, with a 76% reduction in the death rate for CVD since the late 1960s, and more than 78% of CVD deaths now restricted to people aged 75 years and over.2 Nevertheless, there is always potential for further improvement in prevention, detection and treatment of CVD.

The Australian Government commissioned Ernst & Young to undertake the Review of Cardiovascular Disease Programs (the review) to identify the effectiveness of current programs to support prevention, early detection and better management of CVD. The CVD review was also to provide advice on staged options to improve CVD control nationally.

The government's response to the recommendations of the review outlines the Australian Government's commitment to reducing the impact of cardiovascular disease. The key focus of that commitment is health reform to improve and modernise Australia's health system to prepare for the challenges of the future - including the large and increasing burden of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

This response also reflects a firm commitment to core elements of our health system that are vital to CVD prevention, detection and management. National programs, including Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, continue to ensure access to care and medicines, promote best practice care and treatment and support the continuous improvement of our evidence-base. Through these programs there is a significant investment in CVD at the national level.

The government has framed its response to the review's recommendations in the context of existing programs as well as the national reforms to the health and hospitals systems. The response also reflects the government's strong commitment to its fiscal strategy and strict spending limits to return the budget to surplus.

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics – data accessed at www.abs.gov.au – 3303.0 Causes of Death, Australia 2008.
2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2010). Australia's Health 2010, page 141.