Amsterdam, the Netherlands — Philips Foundation, with its mission to provide access to quality healthcare for 100 million people a year in underserved communities by 2030, together with World Heart Federation (WHF), today announced a ground-breaking partnership to promote awareness, medical training as well as early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Asia Pacific (APAC).
The partnership, which kicks off in the Philippines, aims to provide over half a million at-risk children with access to healthcare facilities equipped with trained personnel to diagnose the disease. 190 Regional Health Units (RHUs) providing primary care to a population of over five million will have healthcare workers trained on the rheumatic fever/RHD clinical pathway. 6,000 children in the Philippines will also be screened for RHD using Philips' innovative handheld point-of-care ultrasound device (POCUS). Additionally, around 200 teachers will be educated on RHD, leading to greater disease awareness that increasing the likelihood that children and young adults seek early diagnosis and treatment.
Launching this year and extending until June 2025, the pilot project in the Philippines targets a combination of challenges – low disease awareness, lack of healthcare access and treatment, inadequate diagnosis, and inadequate medical training – to drive a comprehensive approach to alleviating the burden of RHD. The project also has the support and cooperation of the Philippines Ministry of Health, which ensures alignment with the existing healthcare system, contributing to its long-term sustainability.
The project builds on insights gained through a collaborative effort between Philips Foundation and Heart Healers International in Uganda, which looked at the pivotal role of penicillin in the early intervention and management of RHD. Over 100,000 children received echocardiographic screening through the program in 2018, out of which 1,000 have been enrolled in a penicillin treatment program, and five have received life-saving heart surgeries.
“Our partnership with the World Heart Federation aims to drive improved early detection and treatment of rheumatic heart disease, while demonstrating the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of this innovative approach in the Philippines,” said Margot Cooijmans, Director of the Philips Foundation. “Rheumatic heart disease remains a pressing issue in underserved regions across the globe, largely overlooked in the global health agenda. The lack of attention and resources in these settings prompts us to ensure that these communities are not left behind as they battle a disease that has already been eradicated elsewhere.”
Tackling the high burden of RHD in underserved communities across APAC
RHD is a life-threatening but preventable heart condition that affects an estimated 40 million people worldwide, primarily adolescents and children . In the APAC region, the prevalence and mortality rates are particularly significant, with the largest estimated number of cases of RHD in 2015 in India at 13.17 million cases followed by Indonesia with a high prevalence of 1.18 million . The Philippines is also among the higher-burden countries .