Australia

Heart checks get Liberal, Labor approval

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the rheumatic heart disease vaccine would "save countless lives". (AAP)

The AMA has welcomed a commitment by both sides of politics to fund heart health checks through Medicare from April.

Both the federal government and Labor have committed to funding heart health checks to help save lives.

One Australian dies of cardiovascular disease every 12 minutes, with one Australian experiencing a heart attack or stroke every five minutes.

"It means a better chance for people to have a proper test with their doctor," Health Minister Greg Hunt told Nine's Weekend Today show on Sunday.

"They can see whether there are any issues either around their lifestyle or whether any further action needs to be taken."

The checks will be available through Medicare from April.

The AMA welcomed the commitment by both major parties to invest an estimated $170 million extra over five years for general practice.

"The support for comprehensive health checks to tackle cardiovascular disease is an acknowledgement of the importance of general practice to preventive health care," AMA president, Dr Tony Bartone, said in a statement.

"Longer consultations enhance continuity of care, and the AMA looks forward to seeing further announcements detailing plans for investment in general practice in the lead-up to the next election."

Earlier the government announced it would put $35 million towards developing a vaccine for rheumatic heart disease, a deadly illness that largely affects indigenous communities.

The money from the Medical Research Future Fund will allow for the manufacture and testing of vaccines as well as the fast-tracking and funding of clinical trials, a joint statement from Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt and Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

"Today is a game-changing step. Ending RHD (rheumatic heart disease) is a critical, tangible target to close the gap in indigenous life expectancy," Mr Wyatt said.

Australia has one of the highest incidences of RHD in the world and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 64 times more likely to develop it, the joint statement released on Sunday said.

The disease is a complication of bacterial Streptococcus A infections of the throat and skin.

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