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July 2022

Heart failure ‘less important than potholes’



Heart failure is deemed less important than potholes in roads and pavements, on the evidence of its role in public discussion, finds research published in the open access journal Open Heart.

Yet the condition is as serious as dementia and cancer, say the researchers. And major efforts are now needed to raise its profile and ensure it gets equal billing in health policy and future investment.

In the UK, HF affects around 900,000 people, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year, but this figure is projected to rise steeply as a result of ageing populations and more effective treatments for, and survival from, coronary artery heart disease and high blood pressure.

Survival prospects are relatively poor: 27% of people will die within 2 years of diagnosis, rising to 43% within 5 years, and 65% within 10 years.

Despite its impact, HF has not received anything like the recognition, and therefore policy initiatives and funding, of other serious health conditions, such as cancer, point out the researchers.

Using computer-assisted analysis of Hansard records of parliamentary debates from 1945 to 2021, they found cancer was talked about 19 times more often than HF, and in 2018, for example, potholes were mentioned over 10 times per million words (pmw), 37 times more often than HF (0.28 pmw).

‘If we take frequency of mentions as an indicator of importance, the topic of [heart failure] has been much less important in UK parliamentary debates in recent years than even potholes in roads and pavements,’ they comment.

‘It is crucial that all stakeholders involved in [heart failure] redouble their efforts to spread awareness of the condition and the pressing need to improve investment in prevention, early diagnosis and better management’

Practice Nurse 2022;52(6):6