Member Spotlight: Uganda Heart Association

This month we turn the spotlight on the Uganda Heart Association, a young association founded 13 years ago by an ambitious team of cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, physicians, nurses and allied healthcare providers, with the aim to provide a backbone for cardiovascular services in Uganda and support the only center for cardiovascular care in the country, the Uganda Heart Institute.

Since the beginning, the association has developed several programmes for cardiovascular health promotion and disease prevention and worked with the all Ugandan stakeholders to address the looming non-communicable disease challenge, offering its expertise and skills in improving access to care.

Congenital heart disease in children is still a great challenge in Uganda, as it is worldwide. It is estimated that 1.6 million babies are born each year, of which 8000 will have a congenital heart disease that is significant enough to warrant treatment. The Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) is able to perform open heart surgeries, but it is constrained by inadequate funding, operating and ICU space.

Maternal mortality is still very high with 336/100 000 live births. This is due to conditions such as hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) which contributes to a large extent. Uganda has a very low obesity rate of 8.6% in females and just 1.8% in males.

The organization is in a unique position to address issues and challenges associated with the management of cardiovascular disease – from prevention of lifestyle to improving access to care for people living with RHD.

Due to a limited number of cardiac specialists in the country, UHA conducts regional electrocardiogram workshops to equip medical officers with the skills and necessary knowledge to identify life-threatening conditions such arrhythmias and myocardial infarction. The association often holds ECG and echocardiography workshops during their annual scientific conferences.

The UHA held its 4th annual congress on 21 – 22 February 2019 at the Imperial Royal Hotel in Kampala. The two-day programme had presentations by national and international speakers. Professor Karen Sliwa, President of the World Heart Federation, delivered a keynote note lecture on “Unique challenges of cardiovascular disease in pregnancy”.

Uganda Heart Association National Executive Committee with Prof Karen Sliwa and Prof Jowi from Nairobi, Kenya

 

Delegates at the 4th Annual Uganda Heart Association Congress

 

Christine Katusiime, a patient living with RHD, sharing her story during the 2019 UHA Annual conference

 

Last year, the association celebrated World Heart Day by organizing raising awareness activities in partnership with the Uganda Heart Institute:

  • A walk covering two kilometers to promote physical activity.
  • Health educational classes for the public focusing on the prevention of lifestyle related diseases and risk factors for hypertension and heart attack. Also, parents were taught how to recognize symptoms of heart disease in children.
  • Basic checkups including blood pressure measurement, weight, height.

If you want to find out more about their work, visit their website www.uhi.go.ug.