Collecting patient information nationally and providing timely access to health services can go a long way in tackling rheumatic heart disease (RHD), according to two new studies. The findings of the studies were presented at the World Heart Federation’s World Congress of Cardiology (WCC) in Melbourne on Wednesday.
RHD, a chronic heart condition caused by acute rheumatic fever, is the most common acquired heart disease among children in developing countries and affects over 15 million people, the World Heart Federation has said.
It said RHD is not only a neglected disease but also easily prevented and controlled. Acute rheumatic fever can be averted by treating acute throat infections caused by Group A streptococcus bacteria with a simple, short course of antibiotics. For those who have had rheumatic fever, monthly injections of long-acting penicillin can prevent recurrent attacks of rheumatic fever.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) took up a study and established 10 registries between 2000 and 2010 to look at a range of factors that contribute to RHD, including biology and the existing health infrastructure.
In addition, it undertook a wide range of prevention activities across India, including community health education campaigns, additional training for medical teams and prescription of oral antibiotics.
The results of the study showed that the use of registry-based prevention programmes in existing healthcare settings work well in preventing and controlling RHD, which can ultimately lead to fewer deaths in children. Meenakshi Sharma of ICMR said too many children die each year from this disease though surveillance tools and preventive steps can prevent it and reduce the burden of heart disease among children.