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[afro-nets] Heart-healthy celebration in Uganda marks presentation of ProCor's 2009 Louise Lown Heart Hero Award
- From: "Catherine Coleman" <CCOLEMAN5@PARTNERS.ORG>
- Date: Thu, 24 Sep 2009 12:51:48 -0400
Dear Afro-nets colleagues,
Be Alive With Your Heart, a grassroots effort in Uganda that promotes heart health from childhood through old age, was presented with ProCor's globally recognized Louise Lown Heart Hero Award on 22 September, 2009 at a heart-healthy celebration attracting more than 100 people in Wakiso District, Uganda.
Developing countries like Uganda bear 80% of the global burden of death from cardiovascular disease and related chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. The vast majority of these deaths can be prevented through healthy nutrition, physical activity, and elimination of tobacco use or exposure.
"While heart diseases are clearly an increasing national issue, the solution lies at the grassroot levels," stated Dr Paul Namwanja, representative from the Ministry of Health and Medical Superintendent of Namuggona Hospital. "We applaud the commitment of Be Alive with Your Heart Uganda and ProCor to increasing public awareness about cardiovascular health at local and international levels respectively."
Mayor Moses Wandyaka presented the award to Edward Buzigi, the program's coordinator, who, with other health care providers at Be-Alive Uganda Medical Center, launched the program after noticing a striking increase in the number of hospital patients with heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Data from the District Health Officer confirmed that chronic diseases were rapidly increasing: nearly 50% of Wakiso District's population was hypertensive and nearly 20% were obese.
Having lost much of one generation to HIV/AIDS, the hospital's board and staff decided take action to prevent the new health threat posed by cardiovascular disease and its risk factors.
"Many people have changed their lifestyle," Mr. Buzigi explained. "People do less exercise and no longer eat nutritious food." To reverse the local trend toward a "Western" diet of processed foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar, schools and households are encouraged to plant backyard gardens with produce that grows well in the district, like beans, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, carrots, cabbage, and green leafy vegetables. More than 40 schools have planted vegetable and fruit gardens in the last two years, and nearly 200 households now have small backyard farms.
Project staff and volunteer nutrition students from Kyambogo University also provide education on nutrition and physical activity in schools, homes, public eating places, and worksites. They offer screenings for risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, and organize heart-healthy activities like fitness walks for the public.
"Heart disease is a major health problem now in developing countries like Uganda, and we are happy that ProCor is promoting heart health in such poor countries," Mayor Moses Wandyaka of Nansana Wakiso District Town Council commented during the presentation. "We feel convinced that the residents of Wakiso District will learn a lot while having a great time with Be Alive With Your Heart."
More than 100 program staff, volunteers, and participants attended the presentation celebration, at which heart-healthy foods like low-fat yogurt and sweet tropical bananas were served as refreshments.
Edward reports that the $2000 award funding will help the program install internet services, buy a secondhand computer to improve their capacity for data management and analysis, and expand to another sub-county in Wakiso District. He is also hopeful that the award's visibility will help attract further funding. The program's sole source of funding is Alex Wambi, who was raised in the district and now lives in the UK. She began supporting the program after observing the benefits first-hand--her mother Sarah's obesity and hypertension were effectively managed, at no cost, through the program.
"Making visible what otherwise would go unnoticed" is the goal of the Louise Lown Heart Hero Award, according to Dr. Bernard Lown, ProCor's founder and chair. The annual award, now in its third year, recognizes innovative, preventive approaches to cardiovascular health in developing countries. Although the monetary amount of the award is modest, it is globally recognized and provides international visibility that can help attract funding and other support. The award was established in 2007 by Dr. Lown, an internationally renowned cardiologist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, to honor his wife, Louise, and her lifelong commitment to the rights and well-being of others as a social worker, activist, and writer.
ProCor (www.procor.org), a program of the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA is an international health communication network working to prevent global cardiovascular disease by increasing access to information about preventive strategies that can be translated into action in clinical, research, policy, and community settings.
For more information, contact:
Catherine Coleman, Editor in Chief, ProCor
Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation Center, 21 Longwood Avenue, Brookline,
Massachusetts, 02446 USA
Telephone: 1 617 732 1318 x3332
To join ProCor's list: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or
subscribe online at www.procor.org/joindialogue.