2020 start: WHO and WHF committed to eliminate Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) needs the urgent attention of governments and major donors, according to both WHF and WHO. Ongoing efforts from both organisations, which have resulted in WHO’s Global Resolution on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease in 2018, are expected to culminate in the next two years.

World Heart Federation President Prof Karen Sliwa met with the Director General of WHO on 6 January 2020 to share ambitions and actions which would lead to eliminating RHD in a generation. “We have what it takes to make this happen – the science, the will and the experience,” said Prof Sliwa. “Now we need to take bold action to accelerate the prevention, control and improve care for patients living with this devastating disease.”

Globally, 33 million people live with RHD and over 300,000 die from it each year.  Highly prevalent in Europe after WWII, RHD is now affecting mostly low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. Community awareness campaigns, access to health care, and the availability of quality benzathine benzylpenicillin (BPG), as well as the development of a Group A Streptococcus vaccine for primary prevention are the short and long-term solutions for elimination and eradication of RHD.

“Rheumatic Heart Disease has a huge cost to society in poorer regions, as it affects mainly young people. “said WHO Director General Dr Tedros.  “We want everyone to live healthy, productive lives, regardless of where they live. For this to happen, RHD needs the limelight and WHO is fully supportive of WHF’s efforts to achieve its elimination by calling on donors and governments to scale up actions to prevent and manage the disease.”

RHD prevalence rates are estimated to be equal to those of HIV, yet the two diseases cannot be compared when it comes to funding for research, infrastructure and an entire range of programmes, developed for HIV patients. WHF and its 200 Members are working to change this by producing a variety of tools for policy-makers, practitioners, parents and children to raise awareness about RHD and help eliminate it. WHF is also part of RHD Action and the global movement to end the burden of the disease worldwide.