On July 4, 2023, in the Press Room of the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, a major conference entitled « Heart diseases in the Elderly: The Key Role of Preventive Diagnostics » was held. The event, which drew the attention of top experts in the field, opened with institutional greetings from Deputy Annarita Patriarca, member of the XII Social Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, and Deputy Ugo Cappellacci, President of the XII Social Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies who both expressed their interest and wholehearted support for discussing the relevance of screening as a matter to boost prevention among heart disease in the elderly.
Opening the conference, Deputy Patriarca stressed the importance of considering prevention as a real investment for the future, especially considering the profound demographic change affecting Italy, with an increasingly older population. She pointed out that the adoption of preventive interventions aimed at combating heart disease in the elderly can result in a significant improvement in the life quality of those living with one of these conditions and immediate care for those who need treatment, as well as a reduction in long-term expenses for hospital care. Lending further support to the Conference was President Ugo Cappellacci, who expressed his personal support in finding concrete solutions for improving prevention and the health of the elderly.
The President stressed that the current historical moment is favourable, thanks to the growing interest in prevention and early diagnosis. He reiterated the concept that healthcare spending should not be considered just a burden, but a real investment. President Cappellacci drew attention to Italy’s ageing population, highlighting the opportunity to focus on appropriate care for the elderly segment of the population. He stressed how early screening for heart disease in the elderly can lead to significant savings in long-term health care costs and improve overall the quality of life, making this policy a win-to-win for the community while fostering more efficient healthcare which results in less costs for the State in the mid-long term. Finally, he emphasized the importance of adopting the necessary tools, resources, and actions to implement large-scale screening programs – possibly on a national scale, and he personally committed to make all the efforts to lead the XII Commission in undertaking this direction.
After the institutional intervention was the turn of the scientific experts with the opening of Prof. Marchionni, President of the Italian Society of Geriatric Cardiology (SICGe), who stated that the healthcare system can meet the challenge of heart disease in the elderly, demonstrating that appropriate interventions can result in significant savings in terms of hospitalization costs, illness, and disability.
Prof. Marchionni also highlighted the enthusiasm generated among people who participated in the screenings organized by SICGe with the initiative “Il Cuore di..” – (The Hearth Of..), especially in the small communities where the study was carried out. He revealed that the results obtained had a positive impact on the early detection of previously undetected diseases, leading to significant benefits for patients. In addition, he mentioned the progress made in the current legislation regarding investments in the elderly population.
During the conference, Prof. Boccanelli, Vice President of the Italian Society of Geriatric Cardiology (SICGe), presented the PREVASC study as a valuable opportunity to gain deeper insights into the cardiac health landscape in Italy and evaluate the efficacy of screening methods for early detection of heart diseases among the elderly. He emphasized the active involvement of communities, including collaboration with mayors, and the contribution of young cardiologists, which has resulted in significant success. Prof. Boccanelli highlighted the influential role of word of mouth in encouraging participation and noted a well-balanced distribution of cardiovascular risk factors and heart disease across Italy. The subsequent discussion focused on the training of physicians to effectively address this challenge. While cardiologists faced no major obstacles, Prof. Boccanelli stressed the importance of increasing awareness among family physicians operating in various regions. He suggested the implementation of a standardized cardiac health questionnaire to identify undiagnosed cases of heart disease among high-risk individuals. Additionally, he commended the significant contribution of family physicians and shared a positive experience from San Marino, where a similar study was conducted, and family physicians applied consistent procedures in cardiac screenings. Moreover, Prof. Boccanelli underlined the crucial role of municipalities and regions in establishing a national screening system. He emphasized the need to adapt preventive strategies based on different ageing patterns between men and women and consequentially the screening policies.
Prof. Colivicchi, Past president of the National Association of Hospital Cardiologists (ANMCO) and vice president of the Federation of Italian Medical Scientific Societies (FISM), emphasized the impact of the ageing population on the hospital system, highlighting the significant growth in the last years of the number of hospitalizations for heart disease in the elderly. He pointed out that delays in treatment and lack of early screening interventions result in an excessive cost in terms of complex hospital care. Moreover, he emphasized the importance of integrating the hospital with community services and territorial medicine to ensure timely care and a reduced rate of hospitalizations. He also emphasized the importance of national policies adopted by regions to effectively address cardiovascular diseases by reducing hospital overcrowding. Finally, he highlighted the need to adapt to epidemiological and social changes to ensure better management of heart disease in the elderly.
To conclude the conference, President Cappellacci expressed his conviction regarding the importance of improving and modernizing the utilization of resources in the healthcare system. He emphasized that ignoring the need for improvement would be a “criminal mistake.” The ongoing reforms aim to overcome the hospital-centric approach and emphasize the value of early diagnosis, prevention, and the integration of healthcare within the territory. This approach would optimize resources and enhance people’s health and quality of life. President Cappellacci emphasized the need to act preventively and promptly recognize diseases before hospitalization becomes necessary. He stressed the importance of not solely relying on additional resources but also on effective management of existing ones. Building a more modern system of care in line with the perspective of epidemiological and social changes and a better approach to managing these conditions was deemed necessary.