Footy fans urged to undergo free heart checks at Gather Round

The South Australian Government has joined forces with SiSU Health, The Shane Warne Legacy, and Flinders University to provide free heart and diabetes checks at the upcoming AFL Gather Round from April 4 to April 7.

The initiative aims to screen a minimum of 9,000 attendees, heightening awareness of cardiovascular and metabolic health and associated risks.

The free checks will be available across four festival sites at Gather Round:

  • Adelaide Oval
  • Elder Park
  • Norwood Oval
  • Mount Barker

The Shane Warne Legacy was established in 2023 after the cricket legend passed away from a heart attack in March 2022 aged just 52. The shockingly sudden nature of his passing created a profound and widespread sense of loss, and a huge “halo effect” which saw people visiting their doctors to get their hearts’ checked.

One of the Legacy’s first initiatives launched at Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test, when 7,601 people, or approximately one in every 20 spectators, had a Heart Check.

Attendees at Gather Round will undergo screenings for vital cardiovascular and metabolic health risk indicators including blood pressure, heart rate, heart age, weight, height, BMI, diabetes risk (AUSDRISK), control of blood sugar levels (haemoglobin A1c), cholesterol and triglycerides (lipids).

International Point-of-Care Testing team including Phillip Sanders, Professor Mark Shephard, Dr Susan Matthews and Larissa Kahl with Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling outside Adelaide Oval.

Results will be available on the spot via the SiSU Health mobile app, accompanied by a Heart Age estimate, serving as a valuable tool to raise awareness about susceptibility to heart disease. The app will also provide prompts for individuals with elevated blood pressure or a BMI of 35 or higher to consult with their GP.

The goal of screening utilising these indicators is to improve health outcomes and reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes by earlier detection, treatment and lifestyle changes.

In addition, medical scientists from the International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing at Flinders University will be conducting cholesterol and diabetes checks.

International Point-of-Care Testing team including Larissa Kahl, Dr. Susan Matthews and Professor Mark Shephard with Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling at an Adelaide Oval testing station.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Alarmingly, it claims one Australian life every 28 minutes, with over 50,000 Australians suffering heart attacks annually. Additionally, Type 2 Diabetes affects 1.3 million Australians, with significant projected growth and associated healthcare costs.

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says the University is proud to kick some goals for community health by offering free, on-the-spot cholesterol and diabetes checks at 12 point-of-care testing stations situated around AFL venues.

“With just one small finger prick, we can screen for heart health and diabetes, and deliver a result in less than 10 minutes.”

“For over 20 years, Flinders University has provided accurate, convenient, and patient-focussed point-of-care testing across extensive networks of more than 200 regional and remote locations across Australia.”

Jackson Warne says the Shane Warne Legacy is immensely thankful to the South Australian Government for supporting this initiative, which aims to safeguard the lives of Australians.

“Dad loved his footy and has a special connection with South Australia – who could forget “Amazing Adelaide.”

Premier Peter Malinauskas says South Australians witnessed Shane Warne perform some magnificent feats at the Adelaide Oval.

“And we’re so proud to partner with SiSU Health, The Shane Warne Legacy, and Flinders University during the AFL Gather Round Weekend to ensure his impact continues to be felt across our state.

“Major health screening initiatives like this one are vitally important to improve the overall health of our population and ease the burden on our health system.”

“There is no better way for people to take part than at Gather Round. Just as Victorians did at the Boxing Day Test, we hope to see South Australians seizing the opportunity to undergo these free screenings.”

Health Minister Chris Picton says getting on top of the underlying causes of heart-related issues early can be the difference between life and death.

“This fantastic initiative will allow South Australians to understand their potential health risks and provide information and support to lead a healthier lifestyle.”

“We saw the impact this had at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test with so many Victorians getting screened.”

“Now it’s South Australia’s turn during Gather Round to take a moment to look after their health before they enjoy some of the best football from across the country.”

Noel Duncan, Founder and Managing Director, SiSU Health says this initiative with the Government of South Australia and Shane Warne Legacy will undoubtedly have a positive impact on public health.

“We’re thrilled to announce our collaboration with the South Australian Government for AFL Gather Round, providing attendees with access to vital personal health information. We’re privileged to collaborate with forward-thinking organisations that share our belief in the power of screening, data, and technology to improve health outcomes.”

“Based on our data and research, we’ve seen incredible results: 70 per cent of people who underwent the health check were motivated to improve their health, with over 50 per cent taking tangible action.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling speaking to media at the AFL Gather Round health checks announcement.

Professor Jason Kovacic, Director and CEO, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and President, Australian Cardiovascular Alliance says Coronary heart disease, which is when the arteries of the heart become blocked as happened to Shane, is a leading cause of death in Australia.

“But it doesn’t need to be, because most of the factors that cause this disease are treatable: blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, being overweight, lack of exercise, poor diet and poor sleep habits.”

“By identifying and treating these risk factors, we can minimize or even prevent coronary heart disease – and save countless Australian lives.”

“These free heart health screenings at the Gather Round will directly check several of these factors. It doesn’t replace a thorough evaluation by a doctor, but it is a fantastic first step and can identify high blood pressure on the spot.”

“Another important thing we are wanting to achieve at the Gather Round is to raise awareness about heart health. We need to collectively shift the dial so that we all “know our numbers” (blood pressure, cholesterol levels etc), and make sure our mates, friends and families know their numbers too. By knowing our numbers, and getting them treated when needed, we can make a huge impact on the #1 cause of death in our country.”

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