SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- A revolutionary new online platform, the Global Heart Network, is being launched to save the lives of the thousands of young children throughout the developing world suffering from fatal heart defects and other cardiovascular diseases.
Professor Afksendiyos Kalangos, the Greek doctor known as the heart missionary for his life-saving surgery on more than 12,000 children, says: "Hundreds and thousands of children are dying every year for no reason at all. Many of them need to be treated and operated on before they are two years old but because they can't get access to surgery in their own countries they are dying for nothing." â€¨It is estimated that around 8 million children in the world suffer from heart defects and that one million die in their first year of life. The two main killers are Congenital Heart Disease and Strep Throat that leads to Rheumatic Heart Disease. But Professor Kalangos, who is based in Geneva and chairs the new global network, said many lives could be saved if there was better co-ordination between NGOs working on the ground in the emerging countries, the local healthcare services and heart specialists in the West. He says: "The operation which these children suffering from CHD need to save their lives is cheap – only $1,000 for the operating materials. However, we can only do this if we get to them quickly before they are too old. Speed is essential and what is so revolutionary about this new platform is that we should now be able to connect everybody together and quickly to make surgery possible. "
The Global Heart Network is the brain-child of Annabel Lavielle, a British humanitarian expert living in California, who came up with the idea because of the frustrations she had experienced in helping young patients in the emerging countries to get the right treatment.
The platform will go live later this month and will concentrate on African countries where the GHN has many contacts and where Ms Lavielle has been working with NGOs.
The GHN platform has been designed for users to collaborate across the globe; either by the sharing of best practice in cardiac care or through helping charities resource clinical campaigns across geographies. Ms Lavielle hopes the network will help break down some of the silos that exist between NGOs, governments and healthcare specialists. "Often, you find that there is the local expertise and resources but there is a failure to connect. That's why the GHN can act as a central brain, making those contacts and connections. While it's great to be bringing young patients to the West for their operations, it's obviously more effective to provide the healthcare close to where they live."
It's also by collaborating and joint advocacy, that GHN believes it will have a bigger impact on policy-makers and governments – essential if change is to happen.
Ms Lavielle's began her work helping young patients with cardiovascular disorders after discovering how prevalent the problems are in developing countries. She was alerted to the extent of the disease after her own experience following the death of her first child suffering from a congenital heart defect during childbirth and after a second child was also diagnosed – and successfully treated - with the disease.â€¨The new global platform, based out of San Francisco, will act as a bridge between patients and healthcare services by co-ordinating, and sharing, information between NGOs, volunteers, hospitals, doctors, surgeons and nurses working in the field to provide optimum cardiac care. Sadly, the incidence and prevalence of cardiac diseases is on the increase in emerging economies because the levels of even the most basic healthcare services in these countries are either under-resourced or do not exist.
The inequality of cardiovascular healthcare for those living in the developed world and the middle and low-income is widening faster than ever. In the US there are 1,222 open- heart operations per million population while in Africa there are 18 per million: one centre in the US provides care for 120,000 people while in most African countries one centre serves 33 million people.
Dr Neil Shulman, another leading cardiovascular expert and an advisor to GHN, says: "A platform like this could have a giant impact on reducing heart related health problems around the world. In Africa the problem is acute, especially among children suffering from illnesses such as Strep Throat, which can lead to rheumatic heart disease if not treated properly." Simple – and cheap - measures could help eradicate the incidence of rheumatic heart disease. For example, Dr Shulman, who is an Associate Professor at the School of Medicine at Emory University and the co-founder of the International Society of Hypertension in Blacks, said that teaching locals in communities how to make the diagnosis would prevent rheumatic heart disease in children.
GHN is a not-for-profit organization working above local and national politics so that it can work across its core audiences.
Ms Lavielle says: " We have spoken to a large number of NGOs and all of them have been extremely supportive of this idea and can see the obvious benefits of collaboration. Our research has shown that the majority of the big NGOs – as well as leading cardiovascular clinicians - see the need for this co-ordination in care."
GHN will be inviting all stakeholders – from clinicians to local authorities – to take part in a debate to establish what they believe the platform should address, and to identify best practices and new strategies to grow membership and create further value for users. Ms Lavielle says the GHN should have at least 2,000 members within five years. These will include NGOs, medical providers, hospitals, patients, family members and donors. She also hopes that it will attract interest from the private and humanitarian sectors as well as academia.
" Our aim is for at least 25% of NGOs in the field to sign up with GHN," she says.
To view this video on YouTube, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH6oCLtoRpU
Media Contact: Annabel Lavielle GLOBAL HEART NETWORK, 1-415-832-0653, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE Global Heart Network