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Home // What We Do // Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD)

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD)

What Is RHD

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a preventable, treatable form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) that affects over 32 million people around the world and claims 275,000 lives annually. 

It affects the world’s poorest, most vulnerable populations and imposes heavy costs on the health systems that can least afford it. If left untreated, rheumatic heart disease can lead to heart valve damage, stroke, heart failure, and death. 

Treatment of advanced disease requires costly surgery that is unavailable in many parts of the world. In endemic countries, prevalence of this preventable disease is a stark measure of health system failure and inequality. 

RHD is the most commonly acquired heart disease in young people under the age of 25. It most often begins in childhood as strep throat. If left untreated, RHD may progress to serious heart damage that kills or debilitates adolescents and young adults, and makes pregnancy hazardous. 

Although virtually eliminated in Europe and North America, the disease remains common in Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, the South Pacific, and in impoverished pockets of developed nations.

RHD Action Alliance

Since co-founding the RHD Action Alliance (RHDAA) in 2015, the World Heart Federation’s work to prevent and control RHD has been channelled through this Alliance.  

The RHD Action Alliance is a coalition of global organizations leading the global movement to reduce premature mortality from RHD and contributing to both the WHO 25X25 goal and the WHF 25x25<25 goal. Founding partners of the Alliance include the World Heart Federation, RhEACH and Medtronic Philanthropy

The RHDAA global partners work together to establish a scientific and technical support community available to all countries, draw on this technical knowledge to advocate for policy change for better heart health, support and empower all people living with RHD and to foster multi-sectoral partnerships to support and sustain the global movement.

You can get involved by visiting our website, signing up to our newsletter, following us on Twitter or using the hashtag #RHDAction

The World Heart Federation’s RHD Goal

To achieve its mission of reducing RHD around the world, the World Heart Federation has set a specific goal:


Achieve a 25% reduction in premature deaths from RF and RHD among individuals aged <25 years by 2025

Learn more about the World Heart Federation’s 25x25<25 RHD goal here.