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September 22, 2019

Healthcare system can’t treat even 33pc heart patients in Pakistan: experts


September 22, 2019

The healthcare system in Pakistan is incapable of treating even one-third of patients with cardiovascular diseases where around 50 people are dying every hour due to heart attacks and other diseases in the country, eminent cardiologists and health experts said on Saturday.

They called for collaborative efforts to promote preventive cardiology with focus on lifestyle modifications and eliminating or reducing risk factors for the cardiac ailments.

Experts deplored that the number of people, especially youngsters, dying due to cardiovascular diseases in Pakistan was alarmingly on the rise as over 1,100 people were daily losing their lives due to heart attacks in Pakistan, where obesity, hypertension and diabetes were increasing day by day due to physical inactivity while childhood obesity was also very high because of sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet.

Smoking, they further deplored, was still the number one cause of deaths due to cardiovascular disease, cancers and pulmonary ailments. They added that despite recommendations from the healthcare sector, cigarettes were the cheapest commodity in the country, as compared to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan.

They were speaking at a daylong national conference on preventive cardiology “CardioPrevent 2019”, organised by the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), Karachi, in collaboration with a local pharmaceutical company in connection with World Heart Day 2019.

Top of the line cardiologists from not only Karachi but also from other cities of Pakistan, including Peshawar, attended the moot and stressed the need for promoting preventive cardiology in the country to lower the burden of heart patients from the healthcare system.

On the occasion, the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pakistani multinational Getz Pharma for the promotion of preventive cardiology, promoting healthy lifestyle and other measures as part of a joint preventive cardiology program in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Executive Director NICVD Prof Nadeem Qamar said that although they were treating the bulk of cardiovascular patients in Pakistan through main NICVD and its dozens of satellite centers and chest pain units, they had failed to reduce the number of cardiovascular patients by educating and convincing the people to take measures to prevent themselves from heart ailments.

“I concede that we have failed to convince people for adopting a healthy lifestyle, and adopting measures to prevent themselves from cardiovascular disease. The number of patients with heart disease is alarmingly on the rise, but we are not capable of treating all of them,” Prof Qamar said, adding that it was the right time that cardiologists, media, civil society, the government and the pharmaceutical sector joined hands to tackle the menace of cardiovascular diseases in Pakistan.

“Now we have launched an aggressive preventive cardiology program, which is being led by Prof Khawar Kazmi and we have lots of plans to promote preventive cardiology in the country.”

A former vice chancellor of the Khyber Medical University Peshawar and eminent cardiologist, Prof Mohammad Hafizullah, said smoking was still the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases and deaths due to heart attacks as well as other lethal diseases in Pakistan. He added that by controlling cigarette smoking and other forms of smoking, deaths due to heart attacks could be lowered by 30 percent in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is not capable of treating all the patients with cardiovascular ailments, so the number of people dying due to heart attacks is on the rise in the country. The only option left for us is prevention from cardiovascular diseases as well as from other non-communicable diseases,” he said and urged the government to immediately invest in this area to lower the growing burden of hospitals and the country’s fragile economy.

An eminent cardiologist and the preventive cardiology department head of the NICVD, Prof Khawar Abbas Kazmi, deplored that no change was happening in the society despite all the efforts as all the risk factors behind cardiovascular diseases were also on the rise, including obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and use of tobacco. He called for increasing the flow of authentic information towards common people to help them in living a healthy, disease-free life.

Preventive cardiology units should be established at every cardiac facility and tertiary-care hospital in Pakistan to educate people about lifestyle modification and early detection as international health organisations have observed an alarming 61 percent increase in deaths due to cardiovascular diseases in Pakistan, he suggested.

“In a country where the majority of patients cannot even afford to have medicines for a month after heart attack, preventive cardiology programmes must be launched without any delay,” Prof Kazmi added.

Dr Fawad Farooq and Dr Nabila Soomro spoke on the importance of exercise in the daily life, walking at least 150 minutes in a week and reducing abdominal obesity while Prof Javaid Khan, a renowned pulmonologist, spoke on the importance of banning tobacco in all its forms to reduce the burden of cardiovascular, pulmonary and other lifestyle diseases, including cancers.

Other renowned cardiologists and health experts, including Dr Bashir Hanif, Dr Fateh Ali Tipoo Sultan from Aga Khan University Hospital, renowned professor of cardiology Prof Abdus Samad, Town Planner Farhan Anwar, Prof Khalida Soomro, and Chief of Getz Pharma Khalid Mahmood also spoke.