News in brief: Text messaging program linked to improved lifestyle risk factors; Qld health minister pledges cash to stop RHD deaths; NPS MedicineWise calls for review on its funding

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Text messaging program linked to improved lifestyle risk factors

Australian research has shown a low cost text messaging program can successfully support, inform and motivate heart attack survivors on how to prevent a second heart attack.

The RCT, led by Professor Clara Chow from the University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital, randomised more than 1,400 adults to either standard secondary heart attack prevention care such as medication, lifestyle counseling and cardiac rehabilitation or standard care plus text messaging.

The text intervention group received four messages each week for the first six months and then three messages per week over the subsequent six months. The text messages explained blood pressure and cholesterol targets, physical activity, diet, smoking cessation, mental health, how each of their medicines worked, common side effects and the importance of taking medications regularly. A health counselor reviewed and responded to participants’ messages or questions.

Study participants showed minor improvements in diet and exercise measures after 12 months – they were more likely to have a normal BMI, and more likely to report eating at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day.

However the text intervention group had no improvements in medication adherence.

“The lack of impact on medication adherence suggests external factors that we did not examine, such as cost, may be a factor, and barriers need to be understood and addressed in education programs,” Professor Chow said.

“Even though this study found no significant impact on medication adherence, it demonstrates that a simple, low-cost and customised text message-based program can deliver systematic, post-discharge education and support to people after a heart attack with minimal staff support,” she said.

Read more in Circulation

‘The system has failed’: Qld health minister pledges cash to stop RHD deaths

Queensland has ‘failed’ remote Indigenous children with rheumatic heart disease and needs to do more to prevent patients dying of the condition, the state’s health minister has conceded.

The message comes amid a multi-year coronial investigation into the deaths of three women from the community of Doomadgee in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Queensland’s Coroner’s Court has already established the women – Yvette “Betty” Booth, 18, Adele “Sandy” Diamond, 37, and Shakaya George, 17 – all died of RHD, which has a prevalence 582 times higher in Indigenous patients than the general population.

The final stage of the inquiry – an inquest into the deaths – will be held in July.

But Queensland Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath says it is already clear that changes are needed and has pledged to spend $7.38 million on disease prevention and community health upgrades.

“We failed these kids, the system, the whole system,” she said last month.

“I’m not going to criticise the health workers at Doomadgee. They do an incredibly hard job. But this system failed.”

NPS MedicineWise calls for review on its funding

The future of NPS MedicineWise is under a cloud because the service has lost almost its entire Federal Government funding, its CEO says.

It follows the federal budget announcement back in March that the NPS would no longer receive uncontested funding to promote quality use of medicines, a cut of around $25 million annually.

The money will instead go to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC), which will also take over the service’s website and the MedicineInsight dataset and.

The Practice Review letters sent to doctors comparing their prescribing of PBS-listed medicines with others in their specialty are also now expected to come from the commission.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Katherine Burchfield says the decision is a mistake.

“We are disappointed and concerned with what this means for Australia at a time when quality and safe use of medicines is listed as a national health priority,” she says.

“While there is no doubt that the ACSQHC has a key role to play in quality use of medicines, and has strong capabilities and networks, it performs a different role and function in the health system to that of NPS MedicineWise.”

“The two organisations should work together, using their different strengths and levers, to enact change.”

She said the service had contacted Minister for Health Greg Hunt to request he reconsider.

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