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Heart disease doesn’t have to be the number one killer

February 8, 2017


Heart diseases kill more of the world’s people than anything else. Strikingly, three quarters of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. With the right resources and support, including regular primary health care, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease could be detected, people treated, and lives extended instead of being cut tragically short. Unfortunately, without access to regular, affordable health care, illness is caught too late, after the disease has progressed and treatment is not available or is too expensive. 

Unhealthy, processed foods are often high in fat, sugar, and salt — also they are often the most widely available, heavily advertised, and most affordably priced. This perfect storm of calories, cholesterol and chemicals has a devastating effect on the poorest people, even though they have the fewest resources available to improve their health. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Hesperian is working on a chapter on heart disease as part of the NEW Where There Is No Doctor that is centered on prevention and empowerment. This new resource starts with the premise that heart disease can be successfully addressed, even in low-resource settings, when people have information they can act on. These actions can be facilitated by community health workers who can educate and encourage people to stay healthy, provide support for treatment when needed, and mobilize the community to control and reduce the causes of poor heart health. 

As health needs grow and evolve amidst changing global conditions and priorities, the NEW Where There Is No Doctor responds by providing free, online information on the health issues that most affect poor people, both in lower- and middle-income countries and in the US. Read advanced chapters online, and check back frequently for updates, including the upcoming heart disease chapter.