LOCAL and international experts have called for more efforts in fighting cardiovascular diseases in Rwanda as well as in other countries.
The experts were speaking, yesterday, at a workshop on prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases. The workshop was organised by the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre in partnership with Team Heart, a not-for-profit organisation from the US.
The organisation is partnering with the Ministry of Health to carry out cardiovascular surgeries in the country.
Organised under the theme, “Management of cardiovascular diseases in Rwanda,” the workshop was used as an avenue to discuss Rwanda’s agenda in controlling and preventing the cardiovascular epidemic.
It brought together national and international experts to discuss clinical and economic impacts of cardiovascular diseases, progress of care, assessment in Rwanda and sub-Saharan Africa, funding and the way forward.
The workshop sought to confront cardiovascular diseases in Rwanda by raising awareness, mobilising communities and stakeholders, building capacity, expanding research and scaling up screening, diagnosis, specialised treatment and prevention initiatives.
The experts discussed proposals for advanced cardiovascular management, shared information on current prevention and treatment initiatives in Rwanda as well as seeking solutions for the gaps in line with policy, research and services.
According to Dr Marie Aime Muhimpundu, the head of the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, research done by medics in the country shows that 15 per cent of Rwandans have hypertension, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, among other NCDs.
Dr Muhimpundu added that about 35 per cent of people who go for treatment in Rwandan hospitals have problems related to NCDs and 25 per cent of these have cardiovascular diseases.
“We are [the workshop] looking at what is coming from the spheres of research, share experiences with other experts, examine the challenges and gaps so that we come up with solutions on what we should change or where we should put more efforts as we fight cardiovascular diseases,” she said.
Dr Muhimpundu said cardiovascular diseases are the leading NCDs among Rwandans yet many people are ignorant about them, thus putting a stumbling block in the way of fighting the diseases.
She said the ministry will undertake sensitisation campaigns among the citizens so as to make sure that they know about the health of their hearts.
Muhimpundu added that, cognisant of the fact that there is a problem of limited capacity among the health practitioners to deal with NCDs, the Ministry of Health is extending training to medics countrywide on handling cardiovascular diseases.
“We want to increase the capacity of the hospitals. We have reached far as training has been concluded in district hospitals and now we are reaching out to the health centres,” she said.
Charlotte Ingabire, a mother of four who had a cardiovascular surgery, emphasised the importance of sensitisation and called for funding towards the effort.
Dr Joseph Mucumbitsi, the president of Rwanda Heart Foundation, said the Ministry of Health has been undertaking several measures in sensitising Rwandans about these diseases.
Among these, he cited the establishment of the Rwanda Heart Foundation in 2007, international Heart Day celebrations, hosting conferences on heart health, screening cardiovascular risk factors as part of the monthly car free day on every first Sunday of the month, among others.
Globally, NCDs are responsible for high mortality posing a global health threat. Cardiovascular diseases alone cause death of 17.5 million people annually, globally.
For the past 10 years, the Ministry of Health and Team Heart partnership has seen more than 150 patients receive open heart surgeries.