What is the most important element of a perfect heart health system?

Everyone wants things to be perfect, right? Or even near perfect;  maybe just better than a system that functions to its optimum. Updating and accelerating performance normally means a new piece of kit of a now cliched ‘paradigm-shift’ in healthcare delivery.

Surely technology will cleanse all the misfiring and sclerotic elements of healthcare? Well, better diagnostics and smart therapies all help but the one desire from clinicians, policy makers and everyone involved at the sharp end is that prevention becomes the dominant feature – not funding, not politics, not technology; just good education, guidance and the realisation that our health destiny is, largely, in our own hands.

In a recent article for a Raconteur feature in  The Times I asked senior figures what they would place first in a wish list to create a perfect cardiovascular (CVD) health system; Prevention was the word.

CVD kills 17.9 million people in the world annually according to figures from the World Health Organisation and Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, a distinguished cardiologist and now medical director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), was swift to state that the ideal system would prevent disease in the first place. He was joined by Jan Kimpen, chief medical officer, of healthcare technology giants Philips who echoed the need to live and eat healthy. They have impressive devices and diagnostics – and lots of them – but getting the basics right is the crucial first step before we can get anywhere near perfection.

Public Health England has just stated that prioritising prevention in the NHS could make a drastic difference to the health of the nation and limit the financial burden on the economy from smoking, obesity and CVD. It estimates that 50 per cent to 80 per cent of CVD cases are preventable.

The NHS health check, a series of checks for people aged between 40 and 74, is one of the biggest prevention schemes in the world has benefitted around seven million people since its inception in 2013. But its uptake needs to be supercharged to meet the growing threat of an ageing population living with multiple conditions and the fast-advancing nightmare of generations embedded with obesity.

Technology and medical discovery will tackle the tsunami of ill-health head on but prevention – taken in combination with every ingenious health innovation possible – has to become society’s by-word for good health.

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