Written Answers. - Publicity Campaign.

John Dennehy


316 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will initiate a nationwide publicity campaign to encourage people to undertake cardiovascular checks; the number of persons who had pacemakers fitted during the past two years; and his views on the effectiveness of pacemakers in preventing such effects of heart disease as fainting and unexpected falls. [27709/01]

As part of the implementation of Building Healthier Hearts, the report of the cardiovascular health strategy group, on 20 September last year Ireland needs a Change of Heart was launched. This mass media campaign on heart health primarily targets the individual and aims to influence lifestyle choices which affect heart health, such as smoking, diet and physical activity. It also aims to raise public awareness of the existence of a national five year programme to reduce the incidence of heart disease in Ireland. The heart health handbook, A Handy Guide to a Healthier Heart, is a 16-page comprehensive handbook which has been produced to advise the public on the lifestyle changes each individual can make to improve their heart health. A copy of this handbook was sent to each household in the country in October 2000.

The cardiovascular health strategy, Building Healthier Hearts, sets out the priorities for cardiovascular disease prevention in accordance with recommendations of the Joint European Task Force on Cardiovascular Disease in Clinical Practice. Highest priority is given to secondary prevention, the prevention of recurrent episodes in those who have already developed symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Discussions are under way with key stakeholders to implement the strategy's recommendations on secondary prevention. A proposal from the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Irish Heart Foundation has provided a basis for these discussions.

Successful implementation of the programme for secondary prevention will provide a model on which primary prevention initiatives can be built. This will involve a structured approach to risk assessment, with health check-ups and follow-up of those identified as being at high risk. Some 1,054 pacemakers were inserted in 1999 and 1,203 pacemakers were inserted in 2000.

Fainting and unexpected falls can arise as a result of a number of conditions, including disturbances of heart rhythm. Some such arrhythmias are appropriately treated by the insertion of a cardiac pacemaker. It is a matter of clinical judgment as to when such a pacemaker should be advised to treat a patient. Capacity to insert pacemakers has been increased with the establishment of a pacemaker service in Waterford Regional Hospital. A working group is examining the provision of consultant cardiology services, chaired by Comhairle na nOspidéal and involving the advisory forum on cardiovascular health. The working group will make recommendations on the location of additional regional cardiology services, including pacemaker insertion.