UWS helps put heart attack patients on the road to recovery

Date: 04/11/2002

The University of Western Sydney is helping get heart attack patients back on the road to recovery by developing Australia's first degree in cardiac rehabilitation.

Specifically designed for health professionals working in the field, the Master of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation promotes better health in cardiac patients through a unique mix of exercise, education and counselling.

Heart disease is the leading cause of disability for Australians and the most costly disease for our health system - accounting for 12% or $3.9 billion of total recurrent health expenditure in 1993-94.

Leading cardiac nursing specialist, Associate Professor Patricia Davidson from UWS and St George Hospital, says cardiac rehabilitation is about keeping patients out of hospital and getting them back to living an active and fulfilling life.

"Rehabilitation and secondary prevention are critical following an acute cardiac event and make a huge difference to the survival rates and quality of life for patients," says Associate Professor Davidson.

"As part of the rehabilitation, patients undergo exercise therapy which speeds up the healing process, and take part in education and counselling programs that aim to reduce their risk factors and prevent their heart problems from recurring.

"Rehabilitation also greatly improves a patient's psychological health by reducing their anxiety and depression after such a life-threatening event."

Andrew Sindone, Director of the Heart Failure Unit and Department of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Concord Hospital, and Professor of Cardiac Rehabilitation at UWS, says the new course is helping overcome the shortage of qualified nurses, doctors, exercise physiologists and physiotherapists specially trained in cardiac rehabilitation.

"Cardiac rehabilitation units exist in all teaching hospitals across the country, however there aren't enough people to fill the positions," says Professor Sindone.

"Current staff also come from a wide range of backgrounds, so their training often varies greatly. Until now there hasn't been a comprehensive training program that incorporates all the relevant disciplines and enables health professionals to gain formal qualifications.

"Graduates will be in high demand and are certain to be snapped up as soon as their training is completed."

Associate Professor Davidson says there has never been a greater need for effective cardiac rehabilitation services.

"Medical advancements in cardiac treatments and surgery mean that fewer people are dying from cardiac events and more people are living with heart conditions until old age, which places even more strain on our health system," Associate Professor Davidson says.

"There are also indirect costs to the community because of sick leave, lost productivity and the emotional pressures on family and carers.

"Cardiac rehabilitation is about easing these financial and emotional costs. Because the focus is on secondary prevention, it can help reduce the amount of repeat treatments for patients, keep them out of hospital, improve their quality of life and put them on the road to recovery."

For more information or requests for interviews:
Amanda Whibley
Senior Media Officer
Phone: 9678 7472
Mobile: 0418 438 399
Email: a.whibley@uws.edu.au