A preventable, treatable form of cardiovascular disease
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This means that it 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, and can 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.
Following years of campaigning and advocacy from the RHD community, on Friday 25 May, Member States of the World Health Organization unanimously adopted a Global Resolution on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
This historic decision marks the first time that Rheumatic Fever (RF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) have been recognised as global health priorities on the world stage. The Resolution was co-sponsored by countries from all six WHO regions, demonstrating the urgent need for a global response.
Following the unanimous adoption of the WHO Resolution on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease in May 2018, and in response to member feedback on priority activities, a WHF Rheumatic Heart Disease Taskforce (RHDTF) was established in June 2018 to take targeted actions to contribute to the implementation of the Resolution. The second meeting of the taskforce working group took place on Sunday the 26 August in Munich alongside the European of Society Cardiology congress. Chaired by WHF President-Elect Prof Karen Sliwa-Hahnle, this meeting focused on further advancing work on focus areas identified as key, by our members, to implementing the resolution: policy and advocacy, prevention control and medical management and access to cardiac surgery.
The taskforce has been split into three expert groups based on expertise:
The Access to Surgery group of the RHDTF is led by Professor Peter Zilla, a cardiothoracic surgeon based in Cape Town and longtime champion of RHD. Peter heads up the first ever global coalition of cardiothoracic societies dedicated to RHD, the Cardiothoracic Surgery Intersociety Alliance (CSIA) who, alongside the WHF RHD Taskforce shares the joint mission to develop and implement an effective strategy to address the scourge of RHD in low income countries through access to life saving surgery. The CSIA, aims to establish pilot surgical centers with the goal of capacity building for RHD surgery in low income countries.
The Policy and Advocacy group of the taskforce is concentrating its efforts on narrowing the treatment gap for RHD, in large part due to access and administration issues surrounding Benzathine penicillin G, currently the most efficacious medication for secondary prevention of Rheumatic fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.
The Prevention and Control group will focus on supporting pilot projects which aim to tackle RHD at a more local level.
around the world affected by RHD
RHD Action is a global initiative that unites and empowers the rheumatic heart disease community. Led by a coalition of core organizations, RHD Action shares technical advice, advocacy support, and policy insights with partners and allies across the world. Together, we work to create positive change and better health outcomes for people living with RHD and their communities.
annually by RHD
The RHD Action website contains a Resource Hub, which is the world’s largest repository of tools and resources for RHD. Materials are available in several languages, and include resources for health professionals, programme coordinators, advocates and people living with RHD. It also includes all resources previously available on the ‘RHD Net’ section of the World Heart Federation website. You can access the Resource Hub for free here.
If you have a resource that you would like to submit to the Resource Hub, please contact RHD Action at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RHD Action sends out a bi-monthly newsletter RHD Beat, which provides the latest global updates on RHD prevention and control. You can sign up here to subscribe to RHD Beat.
If you have a piece of news that you would like to submit to RHD Beat, please contact RHD Action at email@example.com.
To achieve its mission of reducing the global burden of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease 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.
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