Reach, in partnership with the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Heart Federation (WHF), hosted a meeting during the 2018 World Congress of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health (WCC) in Dubai to discuss current and future work aimed at combatting rheumatic fever (RF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in the region.
A number of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region continue to experience a very high burden of RHD. Adding further complexity to disease prevention and control efforts, many of these countries are also experiencing the challenges of a fragile health system, population displacement, political instability and conflict.
Following the global resolution on RHD passed earlier this year, WHO EMRO engaged Reach as the technical partner to support the development of a program of work towards addressing RHD in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Dr Slim Slama of EMRO opened the meeting by explaining its purpose as a precursor to a technical consultation that will be taking place in January 2019 at the WHO Regional Office in Cairo. Reach Deputy Executive Director and Head of Country Programmes, Dr Sophie La Vincente, outlined the proposed key components of the program, including the development of a Regional Framework for Action and the creation of a Regional Expert Network. Meeting delegates were invited to provide input on both conceptualisation and anticipated function of these program components.
WHF representative, Mr Alastair White, outlined the proposed scope of work for the Expert Network, which would provide technical guidance to the WHO EMRO and Member States in the region to support implementation of country RF/RHD prevention and control activities. The approach was received positively by meeting delegates who expressed both willingness and suggestions for its optimal function.
Following this, Dr La Vincente went on to discuss the structure of the draft Regional Framework. Intended for Ministries of Health and policy makers, the Framework will comprehensively outline the various steps and strategic approaches needed to implement RF/RHD prevention and control programmes according to several key domains.
An important first step, this work marks a promising chapter towards addressing the burden of RF/RHD in the Eastern Mediterranean.