Fundraising begins with the Heart Beat appeal 

The Heart Foundation’s inaugural Heart Beat appeal launched on 28 October 1961 and successfully raised more than $1.8 million. Heart Beat was one of the first door knock fundraising appeals in Australian history. 

More than 100,000 Heart Foundation volunteers knocked on doors across Australia; this army of volunteers raised funds and shared more than 6 million pieces of information on heart disease, helping to raise awareness of these life-threatening conditions. Hundreds of companies across Australia supported the appeal. 

Cardiac rehabilitation helps heart patients get back on their feet 

In the 1960s, there were no support programs for patients who left hospital after heart surgery. To enhance the care and support available to patients, the Heart Foundation launched five programs focused on delivering post heart event care. 

Today, cardiac rehabilitation is a standard patient service, delivered in many formats across Australia, with widespread medical recognition of its important role in post-heart event recovery. 

The life-saving pacemaker 


Coronary care units in Australian hospitals 

The Heart Foundation supported the introduction of coronary care units in Australian hospitals. These units, together with advanced medications, helped to improve the diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks. Coronary care units have played a major role in saving people’s lives, dramatically improving survival rates after a heart attack.  





Heart transplants give the gift of life  

A 1967 conference, organised by the Heart Foundation, featured Dr Christian Barnard as a keynote speaker. Dr Barnard conducted the world’s first heart transplant in South Africa earlier that year. 

The conference provided Australian cardiac surgeons with the opportunity to learn more about this pioneering surgery. The following year this knowledge was put into practice with the first heart transplant surgery taking place in Australia. 


Australia's first coronary care ambulance 

In 1969 the Heart Foundation sponsored Australia’s first specialist coronary care ambulance. Today, coronary care ambulances are available across the nation. These ambulances, staffed by highly trained paramedics, have delivered improvements in immediate diagnosis and treatment for heart attacks, leading to fewer deaths.


1960 -1969

Research improves surgery and medications

Through the 1960s the Heart Foundation funded research into improving surgery and medications to treat heart disease. 

This research led to reduced complications linked to surgeries and longer-term survival for patients. Since this time, the Heart Foundation has invested close to $600 million (in today's dollars) in high impact research in heart health. 



Health warnings on cigarette packs

The Heart Foundation worked together with a range of health organisations to lobby governments to place mandatory health warnings on all cigarette packets. The introduction of the warnings saw Australia lead the world in taking action on warning people about the health risks associated with smoking. 

Effective treatment of high blood pressure 

In 1973 Dr Ralph Reader, Director of the Heart Foundation, played a major role in the landmark research into the use of medication for treating high blood pressure. The study’s findings significantly influenced treatment of high blood pressure.

Today, health professionals know that treating high blood pressure has benefits in reducing the occurrence, and the effects, of cardiovascular disease. 

Tobacco advertising is banned 

The anti-smoking campaign continued as the Heart Foundation, together with other health organisations, lobbied the government to ban tobacco advertising on radio and television in Australia. The campaign was a success; in 1976 tobacco advertising was banned on radio and television.   


The national emergency number becomes a free call 

The Heart Foundation persuaded Telecom Australia (now Telstra) to introduce the “000” national free call for emergency services. The campaign also led to the inclusion of emergency resuscitation information in phone books. 

Today 000 remains a free call from any fixed, mobile or pay phone, enabling all Australians to access care and support during an emergency. 


Aussie kids get skipping

The launch of the successful school skipping program helped to promote the importance of physical activity for better heart health. Today Jump Rope for Heart still keeps school children active. Since 1983 more than 10 million kids have participated in Jump Rope for Heart.  



The dangers of smoking

The Heart Foundation’s 'So you think you’re a non-smoker campaign was one of the first to raise public awareness around the risks of being exposed to other people's cigarette smoke, also known as passive smoking. 

Tick of approval

The Heart Foundation Tick program was launched in 1989.. The Tick's launch came at a time when limited information was available about the health impacts of food products. 

Through the Tick program, the Heart Foundation worked with food manufacturers to place a “tick” on products that met specific criteria, helping shoppers to choose healthier options. 

The Tick program ran for more than 26 years.



Australia records world first reduction in deaths from heart disease 

In 1993 Australia became the first country to ever record a reduction in the rate of deaths from heart disease. 

The rate of deaths has fallen by 86% compared to the peak of heart disease deaths in 1968.

Smoking banned in restaurants and cafes

From 1994 state and territory governments legislated to ban smoking in restaurants and cafes, reducing people’s exposure to second hand cigarette smoke. 



Australia gets walking

Since its launch, the Heart Foundation Walking program has encouraged more than 100,000 people to take up walking to boost their physical activity and improve their heart health. 

Twenty three years later, Heart Foundation Walking is Australia’s largest free walking community. In 2019 there are more than 40,000 active members and 1,300 walking groups. People also participate with our free walking app. 

Research into cholesterol-lowering medication  

In 1997, the Heart Foundation published results from a study into the benefits of cholesterol-lowering medication. The Long-term Intervention with Pravastatin in Ischaemic Disease (LIPID) study showed that the Pravastatin medication could significantly reduce coronary events, strokes and deaths. 

The findings changed treatment guidelines and changed the way statins were made available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This has led to improved heart health for many Australians. 



Launch of Heart Foundation Helpline   

In 1998 the Heart Foundation launched its telephone information service. This free service is staffed by heart health professionals who provide callers with personalised information and support across heart health issues, nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. 

Call the Helpline on 13 11 12 for information and support. 


Smoking bans extended

From 2002 a range of smoking bans were introduced across Australia. The restrictions applied to, workplaces, indoor public spaces, restaurants and other food dining venues, playgrounds, stadiums and smoking in cars with child passengers. 


Tackling rheumatic heart disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities 

In 2006 the Heart Foundation, together with the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, launched the first national evidence-based guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (RHD). 

We also successfully advocated for funding to establish the organisation Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia and for RHD registry and control programs, which were rolled out across Australia between 2009 and 2015. 

The Heart Foundation research grants program has provided close to $3 million in funding towards the development of an RHD vaccine; clinical trials of the vaccine began in 2018 - 2019. If successful, the vaccine presents an opportunity to reduce the incidence of RHD related strokes significantly.


The Lighthouse Hospital Project 

In 2010 the Heart Foundation and Australian Health and Hospitals Association published the Better Hospital Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing heart attack report, which contained recommendations on improving access to treatment and care. 

This report led to the development of the Lighthouse Hospital Project. The project, delivered by the Heart Foundation and funded by the Australian Government, launched in 2012 and supports positive hospital experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cardiac patients. 

The project achieves this by working on improvements to the care and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients while they are in hospital so that it is culturally safe and appropriate.

Women and Heart Disease

The “Go red for women” campaign marked the launch of the Heart Foundation’s Women and Heart Disease program. The campaign featured facts about heart disease for women and aimed to raise their awareness of heart disease risk.



Warning signs of a heart attack

In 2009 the Heart Foundation launched the hard-hitting ‘Warning signs of a Heart Attack’ campaign. The campaign successfully raised awareness of the warning signs of a heart attack and of the need to quickly call Triple Zero (000) to save lives. 

The campaign led to people with warning signs reaching hospital earlier, minimising their heart damage. 

World first plain packaging for tobacco

In a world first, Australia introduced legislation to end the tobacco industry’s ability to use cigarette packs as advertising billboards to promote smoking to children and adults. The bill passed in 2011. 

The Heart Foundation worked with other health organisations to influence the government to change laws around tobacco packaging.



A new direction for research

The Heart Foundation developed a new approach to investment in research after extensive consultation and a review of funding models.

This new direction provided funding for early and mid-career researchers, with a focus on fostering collaboration to drive advancements and breakthroughs. 

2012 was the first year the Heart Foundation offered a range of new research awards, including Australian Indigenous Scholarships and Future Leader Fellowships. 

Health Star Rating a win for consumers

The 2013 introduction of health star ratings on food labels was a significant win for consumers, providing an easy to understand tool that supported them to make healthier choices. 

The government introduced the Health Star Ratings system after a campaign by the Heart Foundation and other health organisations. 

The system gives each product a star rating out of 5, meaning that the more stars a food earns, the healthier it is. The star labels also feature information on the food’s nutritional values.  


More than 50 years of funding heart research

Since 1962 the Heart Foundation has invested close to $600 million (in today’s value) to support Australian researchers and to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.



Fighting for Aussie hearts

In February 2019 the Heart Foundation welcomed commitments by the Coalition, Labor and the Greens to introduce a Medicare Benefits Schedule item number for Heart Health Checks. 

This is available to patients from 1 April 2019. 

The broad support for heart health checks came after the Heart Foundation launched its “Serial Killer” public awareness campaign. The Heart Foundation had been calling for this reform for over 10 years. 

Heart Health Checks will help to prevent 76,500 heart attacks and strokes over the next 5 years. Saving more than 9,000 lives and over $1.5 billion.














The creation of the Heart Foundation  

In 1959 22 percent of Australian deaths were caused by heart disease. In February of that year, a group of cardiologists, lawyers and business people founded the Heart Foundation. 

The organisation aimed to fund research and develop education programs to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in Australia.  

Heart Foundation research funding supported Dr Rowan Nicks’ work on developing the first automatic pacemaker, a truly life-saving invention. Heart Foundation funding also supported the work of Dr Graeme Sloman who played a role in the surgery to implant Australia’s first permanent pacemaker. 


Closing the gap on heart health for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples 

In 2008 the Heart Foundation signed the ‘Close The Gap’ campaign Statement of Intent, making a commitment to help to address the heart health gap between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. 

Graphic health warnings featured on tobacco packaging

The Heart Foundation worked with other health organisations to advocate for the inclusion of mandatory graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging. As a result of that work, this significant reform became law in 2006.



Kilojoule labelling comes to fast food restaurants

2010 saw the introduction of kilojoule labelling on fast food restaurant menus following advocacy from the Heart Foundation and others. This labelling helped people to make healthier choices. 

The Heart Foundation played a central role in campaigning for the introduction of the first menu labelling legislation in New South Wales in February 2011. 


Heart Maps launched

The Heart Foundation released an online mapping tool to identify communities with the most significant heart health needs. The Heart Maps tool helps health providers and governments to plan for, and better target the delivery of heart health services. 

The tool supports the Heart Foundation’s advocacy efforts for improving access to services and support for those at risk and/or living with heart disease.  

Fighting for the future of Australian hearts 

In 2019, 1.4 million Australians live with heart disease. We continue to lead the fight for their hearts through funding research, developing treatment guidelines for health professionals, supporting patient care and helping Australians to live heart-healthy lifestyles. 

More than ever, we remain committed to achieving an Australia free of heart disease. 

Only with your help can we continue our fight for the hearts of future generations of Australians.


Supporting health professionals to manage patient risks

In 2009 the Heart Foundation worked with the National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance to release the “Guidelines for the Assessment of Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk”. 

These guidelines introduced a consistent approach for health professionals when estimating a person’s cardiovascular risk. n 2012, the “Guidelines for the Management of Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk” were released to support health professionals to identify and manage patients at risk.


Clinical Guidelines 

In 2018, the Heart Foundation, together with CSANZ, released the first guideline on Atrial Fibrillation in Australia, and an update to the Heart Failure Guideline. 

These two guidelines add to the existing guidelines on Hypertension (2016), Acute Coronary Syndromes (2016) and Absolute Risk (2012).

These resources help to guide practice and treatment decisions, ensuring high quality care for Australians with a heart condition.


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