The inequality between North and South is widening every day. Developing countries face a chronic shortfall in financial, technological and human resources, a heavy burden of widespread communicable disease and the devastating consequences of socio-political conflicts. To these, globalisation and new lifestyles have added in recent years the rapid emergence of "diseases of affluence", among which cardiovascular conditions feature as the most life threatening.
There are currently between 8 and 24 million children in the world who were born with congenital malformations, half of whom will die for lack of care before reaching their second birthday. Among the survivors, 5 million, mostly in poor countries, are in desperate need of open-heart surgery. Notably in addition it has been estimated that in Low-and Middle Income countries approximately 90% of children with heart disease do not have access to cardiovascular centres. For how long will they have to wait? This issue calls for immediate action.
Cardiovascular diseases are rapidly emerging as a major threat for the health of populations in the developing world. They could offer both a challenge and an opportunity, provided the international community fully understands that by organizing the response now, at the point of emergence, we can prevent them turning into a widespread disaster.
While there exists one cardiovascular centre for every 120,000 people in the United States, Asia has only one for 16 million people and Africa one for 33 million. Globally, 4.5 billion do not have access to such care.
In spite of the vast numbers of individuals and organizations scattered all over the world, who deploy relentless humanitarian efforts to tackle this problem, we cannot foresee any marked progress in the near future. It is therefore urgent that around 80 NGO’s currently specializing in pediatric cardiac care throughout the world (according to a recent survey in 92 countries), international organizations such as the WHO, the Word Bank or the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as the very supportive medical and pharmaceutical industries create a consensual approach and undertake globally agreed upon action to fight cardiovascular diseases.
This is the purpose of the Global Forum on Humanitarian Medicine in Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery (GF): that we join all our forces in the struggle to close the gaping disparity between the medical skills and technology of the North and those of the South, and thus make our contribution towards a more equitable world.
Professor Afksendiyos Kalangos and Dr Jan T. Christenson founded the Global Forum in Humanitarian Medicine in Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery (GF) in 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland. The first GF was held May 2003. The GF was under the patronage of the local NGO Coeur pour Tous in Geneva, Switzerland. The Forum discuss how to best cooperate and assist in capacity building within the health sector of the South, and is reflecting on the achievements and failures of the past in order to create the vision that would ensure the success of partnerships and collaborative efforts.
It also identifies sectors of pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery that must be developed in emerging countries in order to check the steady advancement of heart disease in children. This includes education, research and training through various programs such as the International Quality Improvement Collaborative (IQIC) for Congenital Heart Disease: Improving Care in Low-and-Middle-Income Countries.
In 2023 we have a joint Conference with the 5th Euro-Asian Symposium of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery to attract more cardiologist and cardiac surgeons to be involved in this humanitarian effort.
The Organizing Committee of the 14th GF and the 5th Euro-Asian Symposium of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery looks forward to virtually meeting you in November, 2023 and having an intensive and fruitful discussion during the conference.
Prof. Afksendiyos Kalangos
Dr Jan T. Christenson