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RHD Action Reception

14 June 2016
(L-R) Ms Johanna Ralston, Professor Porfirio Nordet, Dr Liesl Zühlke, Dr Oyere Onuma, Professor Jonathan Carapetis

On Sunday 5 June, following a day which focused on RHD at the World Congress of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health, RHD Action were delighted to host a reception at the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel.


Liesl Zühlke – theme convenor for RHD at the Congress and Co-Director RhEACH – welcomed the audience, describing the evening as a chance to reflect upon and celebrate the tremendous progress in RHD control worldwide. Commenting that, “we want to remind everyone about what is most important: the patient”, she introduced a video from Take Heart, a multimedia awareness campaign focusing on rheumatic heart disease.

Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Heart Federation, echoed Dr Zühlke’s remarks, and added that “the WHF has a proud tradition of supporting RHD control over a number of decades”.

RHD Action were also delighted to welcome two guest speakers: Professor Porfirio Nordet, Former responsible officer for Global Programme for the Prevention & Control of RF/RHD, WHO, and Dr Oyere Onuma, Medical Officer for Cardiovascular Disease at WHO.

Professor Nordet provided some context and background to current RHD control activities, explaining the significance of WHO reengagement with the issue of rheumatic heart disease. He described the success of a previous RHD prevention and control programme in Cuba: “We have shown that a primary prevention approach is cost-effective, and we have also shown that a secondary prevention approach is cost-effective.” He added the success of this programme had led to global action:  “We began an RHD programme with WHO in 16 countries as a result of our work in Cuba”

Dr Onuma praised the work of Professor Nordet, saying he had left ‘big footsteps’. She acknowledged RHD as a key area that needed addressing, however rather than focusing on cost-effectiveness, Dr Onuma stressed to the audience that “we have to make this argument about equity […] it is not right for children to die of a disease we know is preventable.” She also called on the movement to reach out to other sectors within health: we need to link this to other areas: we should be talking about child health, maternal health, health systems.”

This call was seconded by Professor Jonathan Carapetis and Paurvi Bhatt of Medtronic Philanthropy, who both urged the RHD community to work with more partners and funders to ensure the movement would continue to grow.

Professor Carapetis – Co-Director RhEACH – also praised Dr Onuma for her words, and said the movement was fortunate to have her as a partner moving forward.
He added that “Porfirio’s departure was the end of a golden era for RHD”, however he added “I believe we are at the beginning of a new golden era. We have leadership coming almost entirely from countries, whether that is through science, policy, advocacy or clinical expertise.” He drew attention to progress being made at national, regional and global levels, referencing the efforts of health workers and programme managers, the political leadership by PASCAR and the African Union, and work to support a resolution on rheumatic heart disease at the World Health Assembly.

In his closing remarks to the event, Professor Carapetis thanked the audience for their work so far, and invited them to continue their efforts to combat RHD.