Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are still by far the most frequent cause of death (34.3 %) in Germany. This is well known, but too little is being done about it. Despite of the reproach of many associations and patient organisations, there is still insufficient policy focus on prevention and early detection of cardiovascular disease and structural heart disease (SHD).
The underfunding of the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) serves as a perfect example. Since 2021, The German Society of Cardiology (DGK) and other cardiac societies and groups have been advocating for a “National Cardiovascular Strategy for better patient care and innovative research in Germany (NHKS)”.
In October 2021, the associations published a position paper with recommendations for action and concrete demands to politicians. In the position paper, they identified four priority topics that is essential to their work; early detection and prevention, the establishment of an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral care network for patients with cardiovascular diseases, the strengthening of patient orientation and digitalisation, as well as the expansion of research funding. Within the priority topics, working groups have been formed, each of which is in contact with political decision-makers and other key stakeholders in the health sector.
In 2023, the National Heart Alliance (NHA), an initiative of the DGK, the German Society for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (DGTHG), the German Heart Foundation (DHS), the German Society for Paediatric Cardiology (DGPK) the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) as well as the Federal Association of Cardiologists in Private Practice (BNK) and the Working Group of Senior Cardiologists in Hospitals (ALKK) was founded. At the German Congress of Cardiology in mid-April 2023, DGK President Prof. Stephan Baldus argued that considerable progress has been made since the National Cardiovascular Strategy that was published one and a half years ago. This also includes the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) taking over the patronage of the initiative, giving more attention to the project at the national health policy level.
Under the umbrella of the NHA, two pilot programmes for the early detection of both familial hypercholesterolaemia and chronic heart failure will soon be launched with the aim of transferring the corresponding examinations to standard care. Both projects aim to use screening programmes to detect these cardiovascular diseases much earlier and treat them more quickly. The aim of the projects are to expand the early detection programmes to the entire population, saving many people from sudden and early death or long years of illness and increasing their quality of life.
The first results around patient orientation and digitalisation are also expected in spring. By then, a new online portal that provides all aspects and information about cardiac medicine for doctors, medical professionals and for the general public will be available.
Nevertheless, the topic of prevention and early detection of CVD and SHD is still too little represented in German politics. Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Health and the political decision-makers must place a much stronger focus on this topic, for example, by including cardiovascular diseases in the National Prevention Plan mentioned in the coalition agreement.