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Ugandan nutrition program wins prestigious heart health award

Page history last edited by Rosemary 11 years, 11 months ago

A program in central Uganda that encourages heart-healthy lifestyles from childhood through old age has been chosen as the 2009 winner of the Louise Lown Heart Hero Award, given annually to celebrate and recognize innovative, preventive approaches to promoting cardiovascular health in developing countries and other low-resource settings. It was chosen from among 20 applications submitted from 15 countries.

The Be Alive with Your Heart in Wakiso District, Uganda, encourages heart-healthy lifestyles from childhood through old age. Project staff and volunteer nutrition students from Kyambogo University provide education and screening in schools, homes, public spaces, worksites, and eating centers. More than 40 schools have planted vegetable and fruit gardens in the last two years to improve the nutrition of children and teachers, and nearly 200 households in Wakiso District established backyard vegetable farms.

Wakiso District, in central Uganda, is the second most populous district in the country. According to local health data, nearly 18% of Wakiso District's residents are obese, and about half are hypertensive. The program's sole source of funding is Alex Wambi, raised in the district and now living in the UK, who was impressed by how her mother Sarah's obesity and hypertension was effectively managed, at no cost, with the program's support.

Nutritionist Edward Buzigi, the project’s co-ordinator, says the US$2000 award funding will help the program expand to another sub-county in Wakiso District, install internet services, and buy a second-hand computer to improve data management and analysis. He hopes the award's visibility will help attract further funding.

"This is a wonderful example of how a small group of motivated people, with sparse resources, can have a dramatic and sustainable impact on reducing cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Brian Bilchik, director of ProCor, which established the award three years ago to highlight success stories of prevention activities.


Tonga's only pediatrician received 2008 award

2008 Heart Hero Dr. Toakase Fakakovikaetau of Tonga was profiled in the 20 June 2009 issue of The Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals. The Rheumatic Heart Disease Prevention Program in Tonga, which has the world's highest prevalence of the disease, screens primary school children for rheumatic heart disease and provides early, effective treatment.

Rheumatic heart disease deaths occur almost exclusively in developing countries, primarily affecting children, adolescents, and young adults. Dr. Toa (as she is known to her patients) received the award at a dinner in Nuku-alofa, Tonga, 20 October 2008, and has pledged the money to establish the Tonga Heart Foundation.

Tonga, a 465-square-mile island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, comprises 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited, with a total population of 102,000. "Toa is the only pediatrician in Tonga and is the mother of four children," said Samantha Colquhoun, World Heart Federation. "She is, on her own and without external support, achieving what many other regions are unable to achieve with far more resources. Tonga is deserving of additional support to build on the base that Dr. Toa has created and develop an integrated RHD prevention program." Receiving the Heart Hero Award has brought attention to her work in RHD prevention and garnered support from her country, the Pacific region, and the rest of the world.

Dr. Bernard Lown, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, inventor of the defibrillator, and founder of ProCor created the Louise Lown Heart Hero Award in 2007 to honor his wife's lifelong commitment to the rights and well-being of others through her work as a social worker, activist, and writer. This story was prepared from information about the award winners on the Procor website; the pictures of the Uganda project (top left) and Dr. Toa and some of her patients in Tonga (bottom right) also come from the Procor website. For information about how to apply for the Award, see the Procor website.


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