The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa has thrown its
weight behind the World Health Federation’s (WHF) mission to reduce by 2025,
25% of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
currently kills 17.3 million people each year (more than one third of total
deaths around the world), 80% of which are in the developing world. To
understand the magnitude of this problem, consider that CVD takes more lives
than TB, HIV and malaria combined.
Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the HSF explains, “The WHF as
our parent body, helps support and guide us in our mission. They are a firm
champion of South Africa and Africa in fighting CVD and they support our
advocacy efforts with national government and industry, and represent us in
global advocacy matters and discussions.”
The WHF is based in Switzerland and is recognised by the World
Health Organisation as its leading NGO partner in cardiovascular disease
Strokes and heart
diseases second biggest killers
In South Africa heart disease and strokes – known as chronic
diseases – are the second-biggest killers, second only to HIV/Aids.
Statistics suggest that chronic disease deaths have
increased in this country from about 565 a day in 2000, to 666 deaths each day
in 2010. A sobering number considering
that for every death caused by a heart attack or stroke, about three people
survive such an event and many of whom require long-term care.
“The numbers continue to rise,” Dr Mungal-Singh says,
“despite CVD being largely preventable. We have a massive burden of risk
factors: around six million people have high blood pressure, four million
diabetes, seven million smoke and four million have high cholesterol.”
More than half the deaths caused by chronic diseases happen
to people aged 35 to 64. It’s expected these deaths will increase by 41% by
2030; premature deaths that will have an enormously negative impact on the
“Considering that 80% of these early deaths can be avoided
by following a healthy lifestyle such as good nutrition, regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco
and stress, and no or moderate alcohol,
it is no wonder that organisations like WHF and HSF are passionate about
their mission to inform people about early signs and symptoms and the risk
factors for heart disease,” says Dr Mungal-Singh. “It’s been proven that when
treatment is started early, serious long-term complications can be prevented.
“An absolute heart attack risk assessment of age, gender,
body mass index, smoking status, blood pressure, diabetes status and total
blood cholesterol level can easily be done at a clinic or doctor’s practice,”
The HSF continues to support heart disease research and
provides free information and services to build healthy communities. The
organisation also supports legislation targeting tobacco control and the
reduction of salt in commercial food products.
A bold way forward
The recent election of two of the world’s leading experts in
cardiovascular disease prevention and control – Professor Srinath K. Reddy as
President, and Professor Salim Yusuf as President Elect – has given the WHF
powerful leadership and it is expected that their pioneering approaches to CVD
science and its direct application to health policies will help the
organisation combat heart disease and its resultant deaths. The help of member
organisations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa will be
critical to its success.
Professor Reddy says, “The World Heart Federation’s strength
lies in its global network of 200 member organisations. Our efforts to advocate
for policy change, increase public awareness of risk through campaigns such as
World Heart Day and advance scientific knowledge, would all be in vain if it
was not for our members’ commitment to drive change at a country level.
“The ambit of heart health must extend from the hub of
global policy to the throb of a person’s pulse.”
The WHF will catalyse these policies at the global level and
assist the HSF’s efforts through capacity building and collaborative research,
aligning efforts around the globe to meet their ambitious 25 by 25 target.
HSF’s Dr Mungal-Singh knows that even a small reduction in
CVD risk factors can greatly benefit South Africans. “Not only is there a
health benefit, but with a decrease in both morbidity and mortality, there is a
significant economic benefit.
Easing the burden on
health care systems
Millions of rands are saved by easing the burden on the
health system, reducing absenteeism and increasing workforce efficiency, and by
reducing the loss of income and income earners within families. By reducing CVD
risk, South Africans can reduce their chances of illness and disability, and
expect a fulfilling life.”
(Heart and Stroke Foundation SA press release, February 2013)