17.3mil people die of cardiovascular disease

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pretoria - Each year 17.3 million people die globally of cardiovascular disease, 80% of whom are in the developing world.

Health Deputy Minister, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, made the announcement at the 6th World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery (WCPCCS) on Sunday.

She said that since 2011, such facts are being increasingly recognised globally and certainly in South Africa.

Just prior to the United Nations high level summit on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in 2011, South Africa held a summit involving all major stakeholders, which agreed to 10 key targets which must be met by 2020.

Dr Ramokgopa announced that the department had since drafted a strategic plan on how these targets will be met and some implementation has already started.

“Unfortunately disease in children was not prioritised in our NCDs Declaration and plan but this does not mean that we do not intend to act decisively with regard to children and especially where disease can be prevented and where expensive surgery can be prevented we must and we will act,” she said.

The 6th WCPCCS, held in Cape Town, is being attended by both paediatric surgeons and cardiologists. It is the largest heart health and disease event that has ever taken place on the African continent. Cape Town is the city where the first heart transplant was conducted under the supervision of Professor Chris Barnard.

The conference is expected to strike a good balance between highlighting sophisticated technological advances and focusing on mechanisms to prevent heart diseases amongst poor people and in rural areas and maintaining health systems that provides a platform for good health care.

Dr Ramokgopa warned that the fact that heart disease is not top of the list of dreadful diseases does not allow us to relax in this area.

“We need to employ much more interventions so that we are not faced with another epidemic that will cause much pain and suffering, drains our economy, and impacts negatively on social and economic development in our country.

“Heart failures alone contribute one-third of all birth defects and these are the most important cause of death from birth defects. Many of these children die because of late diagnosis and/or lack of access to appropriate treatment.Those fortunate to survive often experience significant hardship and disability as a result of living with a chronic health condition that is not optimally managed,” Dr Ramokgopa noted. 

She further highlighted that in South Africa, only 40% of children who need lifesaving surgery or interventions ever get to receive that care.

“While we accept that the international standard is 1 paediatric cardiologist for every 500 000 people and we only have 17 posts for a population of 53 million, this is being addressed.

“For the fact that our medical schools are unable to meet the need for doctors we have sent a large number of young students to Cuba for training,” she added.  

Rheumatic heart disease is known to be a major scourge in the less well-resourced countries including South Africa. The Drakensberg Declaration, which arose out of the first All Africa Workshop on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease in October 2005, has led to renewed activity on the epidemiology and prevention of rheumatic heart disease in many parts of Africa.

The organisers of the congress have clearly crafted a scientific programme that includes the most recent cutting edge developments in diagnosis and treatment of heart disease but also highlights the need for prevention, policy, planning and health management in the prevention and treatment of heart disease. – SAnews.gov.za