It is probably fair to say that most of the #AHA19 attendees know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in their respective country. We’ve heard this fact repeatedly throughout our entire careers and its hard (but not impossible) to imagine this not being the case.
But we also know how much progress we have made in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. Medications to reduce hypertension and hyperlipidemia are relatively inexpensive and available; there is widespread recognition of, and repeated UN commitments, to enhancing access to primary prevention strategies such as physical activity, better diet quality, and smoking cessation; and new evidence suggests that we can prevent heart attacks by medication alone in patients with some at-risk patients.
Yet, we may not always recognize that those at risk for cardiovascular disease in other parts of the world have challenges that don’t allow for equitable access to the benefits of this knowledge. Which is why I was delighted to see so many sessions on global cardiovascular disease at #AHA19. To kick off this programming, the World Heart Federation and the American Heart Association hosted a panel of Dr. Thomas Gaziano of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Rita Kalyani of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Dr. Dorairaj Prabhakaran of the World Heart Federation. Together, they described the rapidly growing burden of cardiovascular disease; potential technological innovations for controlling cardiovascular risk factors in low and middle income countries; the increasing prevalence of shared risk factors with, and consequences of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases; and health system interventions to reduce cardiovascular morbidity. While this session highlighted challenges many low- and middle-income countries face in improving cardiovascular health including shortages of a trained healthcare workforce, inconsistent access to safe essential medicines, and more. It also provoked optimism because solutions are within our reach. Dr. Gaziano said that these strategies are “More about changing the mindset [of healthcare systems] to embrace chronic disease management rather than acute care or emergency needs only”.
Such a mindset was described by Dr. Craig Sable of Children’s National Medical Center during the T. Duckett Jones Memorial Lecture , who described the progress made in prevention, screening, and management of rheumatic heart disease around the globe. He concluded by saying that the end of rheumatic heart disease is within our reach, if we maintain the momentum of our recent gains.
I am impressed by the global cardiovascular programming at 2019 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. And we still have two more days.
Some highlights include Sunday’s Bongai Mayosi Memorial Lecture on Disparities in Global Cardiovascular Disease, honoring a true legend in the field of global cardiology. Simultaneously, there will be an oral abstracts session on Implementation Science around Globe. The Presidential Keynote Address will be given by Murat Sönmez of the World Economic Forum… and so much more (search “world” in your AHA sessions planner).
Recognition of our shared commitment to be a relentless force for a world full of healthier lives is humbling. It inspires a shared purpose for countless health care professionals-from community health workers to ministers of health in every nation throughout the globe.
So as you listen to members of the World Economic Forum and engage with scientists about their work on biomass fuel on cardiac function in Nepali women or women living with Rheumatic Heart Disease in Uganda please stop, take a deep breath, and think about how you will be a force for global good.
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