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World Heart Federation at the heart of tackling the global RHD challenge

22 Oct 2015

On 29 September 2015 – World Heart Day – the RHD Action Alliance were thrilled to be joined by more than 80 people in New York, including representatives from UN agencies, national governments, industry partners, health workers and people living with RHD to launch a new global movement: RHD Action.

The moderator for the evening, MDG Health Envoy Leith Greenslade, began by recounting the story of Akot Lucia, a Ugandan mother of six who died of RHD earlier this year. A brief animation explained the cause of RHD, followed by a short film, Take Heart, which provided more context on the human toll of RHD, and can be viewed here (password: rhdaction).

Following these videos, Leith Greenslade spoke to Dr. Jacob Gayle, Vice-President of Medtronic Philanthropy, who introduced the RHD Action Alliance, which was formed by founding global partners the World Heart Federation (Link to be changed)Medtronic Philanthropy and RhEACH.

The event also included:

• The Honourable Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, speaking about his own experiences with rheumatic fever and two heart valve replacements

• Keynote address from Madam Toyin Ojora-Saraki, President and Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, who reflected on RHD as a cause of maternal death in developing countries

• A reading from Andrew Fiu, a Samoan New Zealander who has survived six open heart surgeries

• An outline from Associate Professor Greg Roth, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, on the global scale of RHD: 32 million people living with the disease worldwide, and a total of 275,000 deaths annually

• A discussion on challenges regarding access to medicines, with input from Jean-Paul Iyamuremye, founder of the Rwanda Patient Care Network, and Dr. David Hipgrave from UNICEF

• A short animation developed by Brian Crano, a movie producer, demonstrating the diverse ways that individuals can use their own skills to contribute to RHD control efforts.

• Dr. Liesl Zühlke, a paediatric cardiologist and Co-Director of RhEACH, sharing the website of the new movement ( and the Atlas of RHD, which provides a new way to visualize the burden of disease and interventions

• Johanna Ralston, World Heart Federation CEO, outlining plans for a Roadmap of RHD Control, and strategies to engage with global institutional stakeholder

• Additional speakers including Katrice Walker from the USA on her experiences of living with RHD; Emele Naiceru, a registered nurse form the Fiji MoH RHD control programme; and Isaac Ssinabulya, a cardiologist from Uganda


Caption: Keynote speaker Madam Toyin Ojora-Saraki, Founder and President of the Wellbeing Foundation of Africa

The climax of the evening was the signing of the Declaration by members of the RHD Action Alliance, Action Countries, people living with RHD and other supporters. The text of the declaration provides the best summary of the evening’s intent:
“We the undersigned, commit to bring forth our scientific, technical, policy, corporate and humanitarian strengths to tackle the global challenge of rheumatic heart disease. We will work in solidarity with the people who live with, and die of, rheumatic heart disease, their caregivers, the dedicated health professionals who serve them, governments, and impacted communities, worldwide. Together, we believe it is possible to reduce premature mortality from this preventable disease and to consign rheumatic heart disease to the history books.”


Caption: RHD Action Alliance partners and countries with the signed declaration