Italian Heart Foundation – Fondazione Italiana per il cuore urges Italian Government to support the EU Joint Action on Structural Heart Diseases

On 13 July 2021 the Italian Heart Foundation held an event gathering SHD and cardiology experts, MEPs, Government representatives and Institutions for a synergic step towards Italy meeting the SHD Joint Action goals.  

The state of affairs: 

With Italy topping the list of EU oldest countries as its life expectancy keeps increasing, forecasts rush the nation towards overpassing the rate of one third of its population to exceed 65 years of age by 2040, and dashes Structural Heart Diseases (SHDs) to represent a worryingly swelling major cause of illness and functional decline in elderly citizens that need be prioritized. 

The meeting was pragmatically aimed at giving this need a concrete response by merging scientific evidence based on official institutional data and clinical expertise, with a vigorous appeal to the Italian Government and policy makers to sustain the EU SHD Joint Action and pursue its goals. 

Alarming results arising from a study carried out by CEIS – Center for Economics and International Studies (Tor Vergata University, Rome) on the impact of SHD over the national healthcare and social assistance systems leave no time but for action. The study analyses data of the National Institute for Social Security (INPS) from 2015 to 2019, highlighting:

–    a constant rise in valvular diseases was registered from as 2012 (+53% aortic, +3% mitral, +7% tricuspid);
–    a 62% increase in surgical operations of aortic valve was reached in 2018;
–    a +25% in social security granted allowances rate between 2015 and 2019 highlights the severity of the SHD overall impact on the nation’s accounts and the elderly population quality of health and active life; 
–    the number of disabled patients has increased by 20%, from 2015 to 2019;
–    the increasingly harsh impact of valvular SHDs on social security expenditure: from 2015 to 2019 the cost of attendance allowance has increased by 22% bringing to a global expense in the five-year period examined of around 144 million € (29 million € on average each year). Notably, 97% of this cost is related to people aged over 65 years.

(study source: valvular diseases patients’ hospital discharge forms data from 2010 to 2018 plus an in-depth INPS social security database analysis focussed on the 2011-2019)

What is being done:

The Italian Heart Foundation plays a key role in building awareness on SHDs and fully supports the intents of the European SHD Coalition through the active commitment of its members outside and within the Coalition’s Steering Committee as well as in direct collaborative contact with the MEP Heart Group. 
The meeting marked a milestone on the way to achieving the goal of tackling SHDs and strongly stated participants’ common determined will to build constructive awareness over SHDs while joining efforts to promote prevention and coordinate action at both the national and the European level.

Ageism must be fought to generate health and improve quality of life: 

Decision makers and the scientific community have the responsibility to interact in drawing specific programmes to precociously identify and treat SHD related problems. The key is turning healthcare expenditure into a health-producing investment. Fostering the EU SHD Joint Action proves crucial in its think global, act local straight-to-target vision.
Early diagnosis is critical to identify the disease and open way to appropriate treatment – the Italian Society for Geriatric Cardiology (SICGe) voiced out. A timely intervention ensures life quality-effective solution whilst cost of diagnosis is very limited. Screening programmes for senior citizens have being promoted by SICGe itself with an estimated per patient cost of 20,00 euros representing a trifle token with huge beneficial potential. 

Specific SHD policies need to be drawn up with a contribution from all stakeholders as a ground for concrete synergic bourn-targeted operative plan.

In more detailed terms, the hosting Foundation called for Italy to promote and sustain the European Joint Action to ensure for the health and well-being of its citizens.

MEP Brando Benifei shared this call and reiterated his commitment to promoting the goal of the European Manifesto for a Healthier Europe and his willingness to liaise with all stakeholders for the Joint Action intents to be achieved.

Vice-Minister Pierpaolo Sileri sent a heartfelt message focussing his statement on the crucial relevance of early diagnosis and the need to foster prevention, coordinated EU active ageing policies, and local healthcare operators specific training programmes as well as patients information campaign.