NATION

Raising Awareness On Rheumatic Heart Disease

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is raising awareness on the prevention of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) through a range of strategies. This includes the outreach programmes in communities
23 Mar 2017 14:50
Raising Awareness On Rheumatic Heart Disease
From right: Minister for Health and Medical Services Rosy Akbar (right), with a rheumatic heart disease patient Walter Tokarua with his mother Erini at the opening workshop in Suva last month. Photo: Ministry of Health and Medical Services

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is raising awareness on the prevention of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) through a range of strategies.

This includes the outreach programmes in communities including awareness through multi-media campaigns that raises awareness on the importance of taking regular Benzathine injections.

The other strategy includes the training of health professionals and RHD patient support group meetings organised at health facilities around the country.

The aim of the patient support group meetings is to empower and educate patients and reduce isolation.

Last month, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services has also launched an awareness campaign that coincided with a national stakeholder workshop aimed at improving services and adherence to antibiotic treatment among RHD patients.

In Fiji, approximately one in 50 school children have Rheumatic Heart Disease. This is equivalent to one child in every classroom.

The key message from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to those living with the RHD across the country is: if you’ve ever been told by a doctor that you have RHD and are no longer taking your Benza injections, please visit your nearest health facility and get started, even if you feel well.

Once a person is diagnosed with RHD, they need to take monthly Benzathine penicillin (antibiotics) injections for at least 10 years. The main goal for RHD treatment is to prevent disease progression, prevent complications and to avoid, or at least delay, valve surgery. Apart from preventing further damages to the heart valves, the purpose of the treatment is to manage any complications of RHD.

This may involve different kinds of medication and cardiac surgery whereby damaged valves are either repaired or replaced with mechanical ones.

After surgery, patients are required to be on medications for the rest of their life and need ongoing regular clinical reviews. These all add up to be of great cost to the patient and their families.

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is the damage and scarring of the valves of the heart caused by an abnormal reaction to throat or skin infections caused by a bacteria called Group A streptococcus. This abnormal reaction leads to Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF), which can then lead to RHD.

People with severe Rheumatic Heart Disease may feel tired and short of breath and experience swelling of the body.

A person is not born with ARF or RHD. ARF is most common in children from the ages of 5 to 14 years of age.

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) can also cause the heart to beat irregularly or the valves of the heart to be infected (infective endorcarditis).

It may increase the risk of blood clots from the heart travelling to the brain causing a stroke. Women with RHD may have heart problems during pregnancy. It can even cause premature death.

In Fiji, there are about 60 Rheumatic Heart Disease related deaths in a year.

For more information please contact the Ministry of Health and Medical Services RHD Prevention and Control Programme Managers on 3319 348 (landline) or 9077925 (mobile).

 

Source: Ministry of Health and Medical Services



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