The Angkor Hospital for Children will host a conference and workshop to commemorate World Heart Day on Monday, September 29.
The events are the culmination of a campaign led by the hospital, which has included a street clean-up and social media drive, to encourage people to create a ‘heart healthy environment.’
Dr Pises Ngeth, cardiologist and medical director of the hospital, said the aim is to make people more aware of the challenges surrounding heart disease in Cambodia, and of what they can do to help.
“With the pervasiveness of smoking, alcohol and other environmental factors in Cambodia, a true heart-healthy environment is rare here,” he said. “But with proper education and empowerment, much more of Cambodia can become heart healthy.”
According to Dr Pises, 234 children have attended the hospital this year with heart disease symptoms.
The hospital has performed 82 heart surgeries this year, but another 2,500 children are still on the waiting list for heart surgery.
The most common condition is rheumatic heart disease, a chronic heart condition caused by rheumatic fever that is in turn caused by an untreated group-A streptococcal infection.
Strep-A infections are common and highly treatable with antibiotics, as is rheumatic fever. But by the time children are brought to the hospital, they are often beyond the reach of simple interventions and surgery is required.
According to the World Heart Foundation, the disease can result in crippling valvular heart disease, heart failure and death. It is responsible for the deaths of about 233,000 children annually, almost all in developing countries. Thanks to the prevalence of antibiotics, the disease is now virtually unknown in wealthier nations.
Surgery, required to repair damaged heart valves, is very costly and a drain on limited health resources.
“The major problem in Cambodia and other developing countries is that by the time the rheumatic fever is picked up, the surgery needed to save the child’s life has become so complicated that it is not possible within the limited resources available in Cambodia,” Dr Pises said.
The workshop, led by Dr Pises, will be given for families of outpatients at the hospital. He will focus on general health knowledge about the heart, how to prevent disease and how to recognise early symptoms.
He will continue to train the hospital’s nurses to conduct the “heart healthy environment” workshops themselves, to expand the reach of education among families. According to Dr Pises, this is just the beginning.
“Our priority is to continue to build up the Cambodian medical team’s capability to provide corrective surgery for more complicated cases.
“We feel that the long term goal for Cambodia should be to have outcomes equal to or better than surrounding ASEAN nations. It is always a source of pride to be able to provide these high quality services at the Angkor Hospital for Children.”