A new heart health programme by the Irish Heart Foundation has shown to be beneficial to people at high risk of heart disease and stroke.
Launched in January 2021 and supported by the HSE, The Irish Heart Foundation’s High-Risk Prevention Project in General Practice works with patients from disadvantaged areas at high risk of heart disease and stroke and has helped patients make positive changes to their lifestyles and improve their health and wellbeing.
Despite taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic,the programme resulted in measurable positive change and feedback from the majority of participants.
Under the HSE Chronic disease management programme, those at high risk of cardiovascular disease are entitled to one annual GP visit and one practice nurse visit. Such high-risk patients require support to actively manage their risk factors.
This is challenging to achieve through an annual visit, particularly for vulnerable people and people in deprived areas.
The Irish Heart Foundation, therefore, identified that this group of people could benefit from the support of a tailored lifestyle behaviour change programme and developed the high-risk prevention project in general practice to help with this.
Six practices in disadvantaged areas in Dublin (4) and Wexford (2) were involved in the programme.
The HRPP consisted of six weekly one-to-one sessions, where patients were aided in introducing lifestyle changes that they would like to make such as increased physical activity. They were then supported to set goals and overcome barriers to making positive changes to their habits.
Across the six practices 304 people started the programme, and 260 successfully completed the six-week intervention showing a high patient retention rate (86%) despite the challenges of the pandemic., the average age of participants was 58.
In a preliminary review of the project, 72 patients who were followed up at 12 months demonstrated a significant reduction in BMI, waist circumference and overall body weight as well as improved dietary habits, increased physical activity and less sedentary behaviors.
Participants reported that the programme has improved their knowledge of how to better manage their health issues such as blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. They also highlighted the benefit of the intervention being carried out at their local GP practice.
Practice Nurses who took part in the programme also reported a number of benefits from their experience with one stating, “I had a patient from 1st cohort come into me today for a check and he is doing brilliant, has lost a stone in 8 weeks. Blood pressure hugely improved and overall he feels a new person. You know its such great motivation to see them embrace it and see the health benefits. He said that no one had ever taken any interest in his health before and found that alone motivational.”
" With the help of the GP practices we managed to engage with a large number of individuals who would have otherwise been socially isolated."
Commenting on the success of the pilot project to date JT Treanor, Health Promotion Professional, High Risk Prevention Project, the Irish Heart Foundation said, “Although carried out throughout numerous lockdowns, with the help of the GP practices we managed to engage with a large number of individuals who would have otherwise been socially isolated. We helped them make positive and sustainable changes to their habits and beliefs around their heart health.”
“With the high-risk prevention component of the Chronic Disease Management Programme in general practice being extended to those over 45 years, it is timely to take the positive findings from this research and deliver the project at scale”
“Our ambition is that our findings and experience can act as a springboard to learn, improve, and expand the project to help more practices engage with their patients and ultimately improve the health outcomes of as many people as possible across our community,” JT added.
A new report was recently issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) called BRIEF: Integrated Brief Interventions for Noncommunicable Disease Risk Factors in Primary Care. The Irish Heart Foundation was delighted to contribute to this report through the sharing of its expert knowledge and experience in this area.
This report stated that Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease pose a significant threat to the health of people worldwide. NCDs caused 90 per cent of deaths and 84 per cent of years lived with disability in the WHO European Region in 2019. A total of 87% of NCD deaths in the Region were caused by the major behavioural and biological risk factors.
Behaviour change interventions such as those used in the The Irish Heart Foundation’s High-Risk Prevention Project (HRPP) in General Practice are recognized by WHO as an effective measure to help people to overcome these behavioural risk factors, such as tobacco use, alcohol use and lack of physical activity.
According to the WHO, “Cost–effectiveness analysis suggests it is worth investing in implementing and scaling-up these interventions to reduce the overall burden of disease from NCDs. Brief interventions can also help to achieve and maintain healthy eating and help manage weight for those living with overweight and obesity. The uptake of these interventions in the WHO European Region, however, remains low.”
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