November 2014 Press Release: Global Heart Network Foundation

Global Heart Network Foundation launches first RHD screening project for school children in Senegal as new research shows economic impact of heart disease could be an astonishing $2.2trillion.

The Global Heart Network is launching its first screening program to help prevent rheumatic heart disease and congenital heart disease in school children in Senegal working together with government leaders, local NGOs and health experts.

Annabel Lavielle, president of the GHN, is visiting Senegal later this month (November) to lay the foundations for a ground-breaking preventative program which will start in March next year and which will screen up to 2,000 school-aged children living in the district of Mbour, one of the poorest in Senegal, where many of the local children suffer from crippling heart diseases.

GHN’s first field project comes as new academic research estimates the economic impact of eliminating excess mortality from rheumatic heart disease (RHD), one of the most prevalent illnesses among young children and teenagers in low and middle income countries and one of the most neglected, could be as high as US $2.2 trillion. Yet only $1.7 million per year – about 0.1% of global health R&D – is invested in rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

The research, carried out for GHN by US academic, Dr David Watkins, said: “The economic toll of rheumatic heart disease is literally more than a million times larger than current levels of spending. Because rheumatic fever prevention is cost-effective, this mismatch between economic burden and current spending represents a lost opportunity to invest in population health.

“RHD continues to have a massive economic effect in poorer countries. By investing in RHD control programs, we can prevent an important cause of premature death among children and working-age adults and provide impressive returns on investment by increasing life expectancy and economic productivity.”

Ms Lavielle said: “The purpose of GHN’s screening program in Mbour next year is to bring world leaders in RHD together with local health experts so that we can work together on preventing these heart diseases in young children. Once we have a program up and running, the plan is to hand-over to local experts in five years time.”

GHN will organize the logistics, work with potential funders, and provide the cardiologists and sonographers to implement the preventive training and diagnostic screening for the Senegal program. The plan is to carry out annual screening checks in Mbour with local medical students from Dakar who will also liaise with teachers, parents and the media to educate them about the diseases.

After five years of running the program, GHN hopes to hand over to the local authorities. Ms Lavielle added: “If we are successful, the ambition behind our program is to replicate the model throughout Senegal. We are looking for equipment, such as portable ultrasound machines, to leave behind.”

GHN is working with Elena Malagodi, President of Natangue Senegal, a French NGO, and one of France’s leading cardiologists, Dr Eloi Marijon, associate professor at the Paris Descartes University, on the screening.

Professor Afksendyios Kalangos, GHN co-founder and chairman, added the latest research by Dr Watkins is a stark reminder of the huge losses to society: “If we can pool our resources, in the way that GHN proposes, then we can help prevent some of these unnecessary deaths.”

Professor Kalangos added the recent decision by US Medtronic Philanthropy to invest $6m over five years to help reduce premature mortality in rheumatic fever and RHD will be a fantastic boost in helping prevent the diseases. He said: “Medtronic’s contribution will potentially stimulate other companies and philanthropic groups in the health sector to follow the same kind of humanitarian commitment aimed at reinforcing prevention campaigns.”

Notes to Editors:

Contact Details :

Annabel Lavielle, Global Heart Network, +1 (415) 832 0653

David A Watkins, University of Washington +1 (206) 744-7747

About Rheumatic Heart Disease
According to the World Heart Federation, RHD is the most commonly acquired heart disease in children in many of the world’s poorest countries. More than two-thirds of the 350,000 annual deaths, which result from untreated strep throat infection, are children and adolescents. In Africa alone, more than 10 percent of all maternal deaths relate to RHD. The most serious complication of untreated Group A strep throat infection, RHD is the major cause of acquired heart disease and more than 30 million people are estimated to be living with RHD, which is most rampant in non-industrialized countries. ease, heart failure and death.

About Global Heart Network
Global Heart Network’s mission is to amplify change and increase patient access to cardiac care across the globe by connecting efforts and initiatives with people in need.

About Medtronic
Medtronic, Inc. (, headquartered in Minneapolis, is the global leader in medical technology – alleviating pain, restoring health, and extending life for millions of people around the world. Medtronic Philanthropy focuses on expanding access to quality chronic disease care among underserved populations worldwide (

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