The economic impact of stroke in Australia

Posted 17th March, 2013

The bleak future of stroke revealed: over 700,000 survivors and counting.

The number of stroke survivors in Australia will grow to over 700,000 within 20 years, representing a true “social and economic catastrophe” unless Government commit to finally funding the nation’s second biggest killer and a leading cause of disability, according to the National Stroke Foundation.

Launching a new report in Melbourne today, Stroke Foundation chief executive Erin Lalor said despite the fact that stroke had been a National Health Priority Area since 1996 it had been systematically neglected by successive governments since that time.

“This report has shown us the high price Australia will pay for that neglect,” Dr Lalor said.

The Deloitte Access Economics Report, “The economic impact of stroke in Australia”, was commissioned by the National Stroke Foundation in 2012 and provides the first updated figures on the incidence, prevalence and cost of stroke in almost a decade.

“Our calls for funding to reduce the amount of avoidable death and disability caused by stroke have fallen on deaf ears for too long,” Dr Lalor said.

According to the research, the number of stroke survivors in Australia will almost double by 2032.

“This is a frightening level of growth and a figure that does not even include those carers who will have to give up paid work,” Dr Lalor said.

Over 420,000 people were living with stroke in Australia in 2012 – an increase of 20 percent on the previous estimate of 350,000. Two-thirds of those survivors are dependent on another person for their daily needs.

Dr Lalor said the report painted a bleak picture of the level of disability in the community caused by stroke – much of it avoidable – and the social, individual and economic costs of what is “in many cases a preventable and treatable disease.”

“Almost 1000 strokes occur in Australia every week,” she said.

Dr Lalor said it wasn’t just the elderly being affected by stroke, but it was also a significant problem in people of working age, presenting not only personal suffering but economic pain through loss of their contribution to the workforce at such a young age.

“Last year there were nearly 130,000 stroke survivors in the community aged under 65,” she said.

“That represents a massive loss of national productivity.”

The burden of disease of stroke in 2012 was close to $50 billion, on a par with the burden of disease of depression and anxiety. The total financial costs of stroke in Australia in 2012 were $5 billion. Almost half of this cost was borne by individuals.

The report also models the economic benefits that would be gained from modest injections of funding into prevention and awareness programs, as well as the savings that could be gained by adopting best-practice acute care and rehabilitation and averting thousands of cases of stroke-induced disability.

The report states that for a cost of $4.3 million per annum, the National Stroke Foundation’s StrokeLink program could prevent over 2047 cases of stroke-induced disability annually potentially saving $56.7 million in financial costs, half of which is directly attributable to the intervention.

For a cost of $3.5 million, effective follow up in the community utilising StrokeConnect could enable over 1294 stroke survivors to regain functional independence each year, for a potential saving of $33.2 million. Half of this saving is directly attributable to StrokeConnect.

Boosting the National Stroke Foundation’s Know your numbers program also had the capacity to avoid over 500 strokes and 400 cases of heart disease every year.

Late last year the National Stroke Foundation launched the National Action Plan for Stroke, a three-year, $198m policy response that outlines a raft of measures to tackle stroke.

“We call on the Australian Government to fund the five key policy proposals in the National Action Plan and set Australia on the path towards delivery of world-best standard stroke care and reduce the burden of this disease,” Dr Lalor said.

“This is very simple mathematics.”


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