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ESC Congress 2020 Register

How can we better care for neglected cardiovascular disease?

ESC Congress News 2019 - Paris, France

Affecting over 33 million people globally, rheumatic heart disease accounted for over 300,000 deaths worldwide in 2015, higher death rates being seen in poorer regions, including Oceania, South Asia and central sub-Saharan Africa.1

Public Health
Risk Factors and Prevention
Cardiovascular Disease in Special Populations

According to President of the World Heart Federation (WHF), Professor Karen Sliwa (University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa), “Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease remain significant causes of cardiovascular disease in the world today, despite being easily preventable, and this constitutes a serious public health problem in many low-resource settings and among indigenous populations. Rheumatic heart disease occurs most commonly in children, adolescents and younger adults and can have devastating effects on patients and their families, including life-long disability and death.” She continues, “We need to make rheumatic heart disease a global health priority, helping countries to integrate it into their national plans by providing penicillin as primary and secondary prevention and improving care, including having access to cardiothoracic surgery. This will support the implementation of the WHO 2018 Global Resolution on rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.2”

Recognising the urgent need to address the health and economic burden of neglected cardiovascular diseases and to bring much-needed attention to this global crisis, the ESC Congress–World Congress of Cardiology partnership has made these conditions the focus of a number of different symposia and sessions.

Today, delegates will learn more about challenges and opportunities in managing rheumatic heart disease in a case-based, interactive session, and also have the opportunity to hear results from international studies in a moderated poster session. Highlights will include a  3–4-year follow-up of a multicentre, respective cohort study of children with subclinical rheumatic heart disease over five countries (Abstract P3131) and a pilot screening programme from Bornean Malaysia that is using portable echocardiography to improve early detection (Abstract P3129). Rheumatic heart disease will also be featured in a Global Exchange event, ‘Reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease in Africa,’ this afternoon, held jointly with the Pan-African Society of Cardiology and the African Heart Network.

Also treatable is Chagas disease, or American trypanosomiasis, which affects 6–7 million people around the world.3 “When untreated,” says Prof. Sliwa, “Chagas disease can cause serious heart and digestive system problems and around 12,000 people die each year from disease-related causes. Yet only around 1 in 10 are diagnosed and fewer than 1% receive treatment.” Chagas disease, like other neglected diseases, has gone largely unnoticed by society and policy makers, despite being one of the most prevalent public health problems in Latin America.

“The increasing movement of people around the world means that Chagas disease is now on the rise in Europe and North America.”

“Renewed efforts must be made to combat Chagas disease, which often affects the poorest and most marginalised,” says Prof. Sliwa.

“The WHF has also recently joined the Chagas Coalition. This is an ambitious, collaborative alliance of civil society organisations, including patient groups, that works to eradicate Chagas disease by sharing experiences and knowledge and translating this into concerted actions.”

Chagas disease, along with rheumatic heart disease, were discussed in a symposium yesterday, ‘New hope for neglected cardiovascular diseases’, held jointly with the Brazilian Society of Cardiology. It will also receive much attention at a Global Exchange event this morning, ‘Reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease in the Americas’, held jointly with the Inter-American Society of Cardiology (SIAC) and the Inter-American Heart Foundation, where the WHF and SIAC will launch a new Global Roadmap project.


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1. Watkins DA, et al. N Engl J Med 2017;377:713–722.
2. WHO report.
3. WHO fact sheet.

Notes to editor

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together healthcare professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

About ESC Congress 2019

ESC Congress is the world’s largest and most influential cardiovascular event contributing to global awareness of the latest clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries. ESC Congress 2019 takes place 31 August to 4 September at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Paris - France. Explore the scientific programme