Maltese heart care fights an uphill battle against poor lifestyle

Major inequalities in the use of basic heart medicines between countries

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Matthew Vella
7 December 2016, 11:24am
Heart care conditions in Malta, ranking 20th among 30 measured countries, should improve, says the Euro Heart Index 2016 (EHI), published today in Brussels.

The Index compares heart care in 30 European countries, with France the champion, closely followed by Norway and Sweden. Heart care improves in almost every country but the gaps across Europe threaten equity. Equal access to basic heart medication would save tens of thousands of lives.

“In heart care, Malta shares a problematic life style pattern with many European countries,” Dr Beatriz Cebolla, EHI Director, said.

But Malta stands out for a life-threatening combination of obesity in all segments of the population and (possibly for that reason) high prevalence of diabetes.

“There is also a lack of efficient and coordinated structure of heart care. Together these factors cause high levels of heart-related mortality. Yet we do not have the full picture as many heart care data are missing, which is strange, given that small Malta has only one major hospital. Reporting should not be that complicated,” Dr Cebolla said.

Professor Arne Björnberg, the HCP chairman, explained the larger picture: “In heart care, there is a significant gap between European guidelines on how to treat patients, and how cardiac care is performed. The deployment of basic, inexpensive heart medicines seems haphazard, hardly reflecting the needs of Europeans. More systematic use of therapies such as statins and clopidogrel would save thousands of lives!”

Prof. Björnberg said that evidently there was a connection between high spending and good outcomes. “Affluent countries can afford admitting patients into hospital care on weaker indications, which can prevent that conditions grow worse. But a lot can be achieved also with small budgets, with the right priorities.”

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.