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On 25 May last year, the World Health Organization and its Member States took a momentous step as they adopted a Resolution on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
In recognition of the urgent need to prevent and control RF and RHD, 23 different countries across 5 continents co-sponsored the Resolution, while countries took the floor to speak on the issue.
As we approach the 72nd World Health Assembly, one year on from the Resolution’s adoption, we have taken a step back to review progress and see what work needs to be done.
In 2017, the World Heart Federation had contacted our members to seek their views on what role WHF should play RHD prevention and control following the adoption of the Resolution. In response, the WHF RHD Taskforce was established, chaired by the World Heart Federation’s Presiden Professor Karen Sliwa, with the aim of taking a small number of specific actions to aid the Resolution’s implementation.
The Taskforce has met on three occasions – in Maputo, Munich and Dubai – and three working groups have been established to aid this work: Policy & Advocacy, Prevention, Control and Medical Management, and Access to Cardiac Surgery for RHD. In collaboration with partners the World Health Organization and Reach, the Taskforce has focused its advocacy efforts on a global strategic meeting to improve access to, and supply of, benzathine penicillin G, the main antibiotic for primary and secondary prevention of rheumatic fever. Another key part of the Taskforce’s work has been to support the work of the of Cardiac Surgery Intersociety Alliance (CSIA), which is committed to implementing the goals of the Cape Town Declaration on Access to Cardiac Surgery for RHD.
WHF also continued its advocacy efforts through sending staff and member representatives to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Committee Meetings, which are held to determine regional health policy from August-October each year. Additionally, WHF were also pleased to join together with partners Reach and the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (WHO EMRO) to co-organise the EMRO Rheumatic Heart Disease Consultative Meeting, shifting the focus of RHD activities from global policy to implementation at the regional and country level.
This meeting involved a number of invited RHD experts from the EMRO region, as well as representatives from 8 Ministries of Health in the region: next steps include the agreement of a draft regional framework for action and the establishment of an expert group to assist and advise Ministries of Health.
RHD Research Efforts
RHD was a key focus WHF meetings such as the 3rd Global Summit on Circulatory Health. Held in Dubai alongside the World Congress of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health (WCC) with the theme Shaping the Future of Circulatory Health: Access to Essential Medicines and Technologies, sessions focused on access to BPG and supply issues.
RHD also remained at the forefront of the scientific agenda at WCC, with sessions focusing on diverse areas such as surgery, echocardiographic screening, and the intersections between RHD and maternal health. A priority for the RHD community has been the development of a Group A Streptococcus (GAS) vaccine for primary prevention, and we congratulate colleagues at the Telethon Kids Institute for obtaining a multi-million dollar grant to develop such a vaccine.
At WHF, we will redouble our efforts to advocate to governments to implement the Resolution’s recommendations. In particular, guided by the RHD Taskforce and in collaboration with other partners, we will push for global action on BPG to ensure a reliable supply of essential medicines.
Furthermore, this year, in August 2019, the World Heart Federation will join together with the European Society of Cardiology for the ESC Congress, which will also feature the World Congress of Cardiology. In addition to numerous RHD scientific sessions, we look forward to meeting representatives from our members and the CVD community at a meeting of the WHF RHD Taskforce to hear the latest progress on RHD activities from around the world, and to discuss what other steps WHF and its partners can take to prevent and control RHD.
WHF Co-Organises RHD Regional Regional Workshop in Egypt
WHF RHD Taskforce meets in Dubai
Update on the WHF Rheumatic Heart Disease Taskforce