With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide, cardiovascular health is one of the most urgent topics needed to be addressed in the medical field. From prevention to treatment, keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy can help protect the vital organ: the heart. In February, the United States celebrates American Heart Month with efforts to diffuse key information regarding heart health in hopes of effectively targeting the disproportionately large and, frequently, preventable cause of death that is heart disease. However, the prevalence and devastation of heart disease are not limited to within the United States' borders; cardiovascular disease was responsible for 17.8 million deaths worldwide in 2017, with the highest mortality rates in regions such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia [American Heart Association]. Cardiovascular diseases can manifest or be heightened by various lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking, diet, and exercise habits. With that being said, during the month of February, healthcare professionals promote mindfulness about approaches to preventing heart disease and encouraging individuals to engage with their physician around the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
The battle against cardiovascular disease is one every country is facing, yet each nation's obstacles are unique. Low- and middle- income countries have repeatedly demonstrated alarming statistics regarding the heart health of citizens. Even with talented physicians in these low- and middle-income countries, the economic burden that cardiovascular diseases put on a nation, as well as the limited access to effective "integrated primary health care programmes for early detection and treatment of people with risk factors," makes it difficult for facilities to provide the proper preventative care and treatment to all in need [World Health Organization].
Because of these disparities, LIG Global has partnered with healthcare providers and institutions abroad and domestically. By working side-by-side with clinical experts in cardiology abroad and by providing consultations in regions with limited access to specialists, LIG Global has contributed to the work of cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment.
In partnership with the Health Wagon in Wise, Virginia, LIG Global's cardiology volunteers' team helps provide specialty care to patients with limited access to specialists. This bustling rural town is home to many individuals with a high risk of heart disease. Limited access to affordable specialty care also increases the risk of undiagnosed cardiovascular diseases that could be treated at earlier stages or even prevented. To help address these disparities, LIG Global has sent two cardiologists, two echocardiogram machines donated for use by Philips Medical, two echocardiography technicians, and many nurses to provide care and screening to patients that were referred by physicians participating in a clinic set up by Remote Area Medical (RAM) and by the providers from the Health Wagon. LIG physicians offered their recommendations for treatment and preventative measures to patients and the dedicated Health Wagon nurse practitioners, including EKG screenings for potential heart abnormalities, consultations for patients with diagnosed cardiovascular disease, and echocardiograms for further evaluation.
Similarly, the LIG Global team offers its clinical care and resources to promote cardiovascular health in Cajamarca, Peru. Working as a team with local cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons of Hospital Regional Docente de Cajamarca, LIG Global cardiologists assist in various high risk and complex cardiovascular procedures. With this partnership, patients have received essential procedures, including open-heart surgeries requiring cardiac bypass, cardiac catheterizations and interventions, and heart valve repairs and replacements. Cardiologist, co-founder, and member of LIG Global's Advisory Board, Dr. Sarah Timmapuri, reflects on her time in Cajamarca, stating, "Our colleagues in Peru are extremely talented physicians who are always a pleasure to work with." In addition to partnering in the care of complex patients, the LIG Global team also donates supplies to the hospital in Cajamarca necessary to carry out an array of procedures. Catheters, stents, balloons, heart valves, and heart-lung bypass machines are all supplies that LIG Global has offered to its colleagues in Peru to ensure that quality care continues to be provided to patients from the region.
While the work in Wise, Virginia, and Cajamarca, Peru, are some of LIG Global's more consistent efforts, the team has also provided cardiac care to communities in need in other regions, such as Montana and the Philippines. In Montana, the LIG Global team collaborated with clinicians serving the Blackfeet Indian Nation Tribe through its healthcare clinic by conducting teleconsultations. Work in the Philippines included collaborating with the physicians in the city of Iloilo with consultations, ECGs, and echocardiography.
There is still much more to be done. Sharing and disseminating information about heart health and preventative measures to the general public and increasing access to specialized care is necessary to improve health outcomes for patients worldwide. LIG Global will continue to work through close partnerships with physicians in areas of need and assist with resources. We truly appreciate our volunteers, our partners here and abroad, and our patients and hope to continue this work over the years to come.
American Heart Association. 2020 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update Fact Sheet At-a-Glance . www.heart.org/-/media/files/about-us/statistics/2020-heart-disease-and-stroke-ucm_505473.pdf?la=en.
Heart.org. Special Issue on Global Disparities in Management of Cardiovascular Disease Illustrates Need for Global Outreach and Leadership. 21 Nov. 2017, newsroom.heart.org/news/special-issue-on-global-disparities-in-management-of-cardiovascular-disease-illustrates-need-for-global-outreach-and-leadership.
WHO. “Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 17 May 2017, www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds).