Take Heart Africa- Guest Blog from Dr Liesl Zühlke RHD Africa
Sore throats are part of normal childhood illness, no matter where in the world one lives. However for those children living in Africa, this can mean a childhood either cut short by crippling heart failure or the need for open-heart surgery.
Rheumatic heart disease, a permanent condition affecting the heart valves and can result in heart failure, irregular heartbeat and stroke, is entirely preventable by treating sore throats in children.
A big study conducted in 25 hospitals in developing countries (12 African nations, Yemen, and India), showed that people with the condition in developing countries are young, largely female and are suffering with significant disease.
This study together with many efforts in the past, has prompted an urgent “Call for action” from concerned African countries to tackle RHD head-on.
Several meetings and discussions led to a historic meeting in 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the formation of the African Union Communique. This Communique, now adopted by all heads of State of the African Union member states, outlines seven priority areas for action which include creating a prospective disease registers at sentinel sites in affected countries to measure disease burden and track progress towards the reduction of mortality by 25% by the year 2025, ensuring an adequate supply of high-quality benzathine penicillin for the primary and secondary prevention of ARF/RHD, and the establishment of national and regional centres of excellence for essential cardiac surgery for the treatment of affected patients and training of cardiovascular practitioners of the future.
These priority areas reflect the major care gaps in rheumatic heart disease. The final two priority areas address and emphasize the urgent need for collaboration and multi-stakeholder oversight of the local implementation of this Communique.
The road to Addis outlines the seven priority areas and details each of the needs and opportunities. Told by three physicians from South Africa and Zambia, we gain a unique insight into Africa’s fight against RHD.
Watch the short film Take Heart Africa- Road to Addis
To learn more about Rheumatic Heart Disease click here
Dr Liesl Zühlke graduated from UCT Medical School and then qualified as a Paediatrician at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town. She trained as a Paediatric Cardiologist in Cape Town and Dusseldorf, Germany. Her particular research interest is Rheumatic Heart Disease and echocardiographic screening in asymptomatic schoolchildren. She feels passionately that Rheumatic Heart Disease, a preventable chronic disease of childhood, can be controlled in developing countries using a multi-pronged approach. She recently graduated with her Master’s in Public Health and is currently a Doctoral Fellow within the ASAP programme. She is on the local organizing committee of the 6th World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery to be held in Cape Town in 2013.