'Our first aim,' says ESC President Michel Komajda, 'is to establish long-term collaborative relationships in fast developing countries and develop common perspectives through a discussion of clinical cases. There is a huge global demand for ESC training, guidelines and knowledge, and this event in China will be the first in which we can formally strengthen our relationships with regions outside Europe.'
Reports in the past few years have shown that heart disease, stroke and cancers are now China's leading cause of death among the middle-aged, driven by high rates of smoking and hypertension which appear to have grown with the country's economy. A study of 170,000 Chinese adults followed up since 1991 and reported in the Lancet last year found increased blood pressure to be the leading preventable risk factor for premature mortality in the Chinese population.1 'Prevention and control of this condition should receive top public-health priority in China,' said the investigators.
Similarly, a projection of cardiovascular events in China based on current risk factor levels forecast a 50 per cent increase between 2010 and 2030.2 Moreover, projected trends in blood pressure, total cholesterol, diabetes and active smoking would raise annual CVD events by an additional 23 per cent, an increase of approximately 21.3 million cardiovascular events and 7.7 million cardiovascular deaths.
However, commentators agree that the true extent of heart disease, especially in rural areas, is largely unknown because of incomplete reporting systems. 'But what we do know,' says Komajda 'is that the risk factors for cardiovascular disease are not confined to the industrial world. What we're seeing now in countries like India and China is a lifestyle pattern which we saw in our western industrialised countries 50 years ago. More consumption of sugar and tobacco, higher rates of diabetes and hypertension. For China it means moving its healthcare forward from basic needs to more integrated programmes of prevention and treatment.'
The ESC's global scientific programme, which will be headlined as 'ESC in China', will also include collaborative exchanges in Latin and South America, Malaysia and the Middle East, and all will develop their themes around clinical case studies with the involvement of local specialists and general physicians. 'The basis of our contribution will be our expertise and guidelines,' says Komajda, 'but we wish to develop friendly relations where dialogue is the driving force.' Some of the leading figures in European cardiology are already scheduled to take part in the programme, including Komajda himself as ESC President and ESC Past President Roberto Ferrari.
The programme will also gain support from the ESC's Affiliated National Societies, a group of national cardiac societies and professional groups from countries outside Europe. The affiliation programme, which seven more national societies have joined this year, allows close collaboration with the ESC and all its activities, and is becoming an increasingly popular route for national societies to take. Both the Chinese Society of Cardiology and Chinese College of Cardiovascular Physicians became Affiliated National Societies of the ESC earlier this year, bringing the total to 35.