Manila, June 28, 2003 (STAR) Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is now the leading killer in the country. It has already killed hundreds of thousands of victims and the numbers succumbing to heart attacks and strokes are growing everyday.

However, local heart specialists are lamenting that there are not enough local statistics to give the Philippine medical community a concrete idea of the magnitude of the problem. Without this information, it is difficult to design an effective strategy that can combat this major problem.

The Philippine Heart Association (PHA) is now initiating several programs that would help the country win the battle against CVD.

In its recent annual convention, the PHA launched the DEAR Heart program, a project which aims to establish a National Heart Failure Registry Program which could pinpoint the causes of Filipino cardiovascular deaths and help analyze which provinces need additional health assistance.

The registry aims to ultimately profile the Filipino patient with heart failure for an early diagnosis and treatment.

The DEAR (Dysfunction, Established And Registered) Heart program is intended to be a developmental, collaborative program to set up an effective, ongoing registry of heart failure patients admitted to major or tertiary hospitals nationwide.

The registry will focus on congestive heart failure, which is a complication of hypertension, coronary artery disease and other types of heart ailments.

Dr. Jesus Jorge, head of the DEAR Heart program, said they have formed a technical working group tasked to come up with a framework necessary for an effective registry program.

The group is composed of experts in cardiology who are members of certain councils such as the Councils on Cardiomyopathy, Cardiovascular Surgery and Heart Failure.

The data on heart failure patients, who are admitted to accredited hospitals like the Philippine Heart Center, Philippine General Hospital and Veterans Memorial Medical Center, will be included in the central system.

The PHA hopes to expand the program to include the Chinese General Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital.

During the pilot phase of the project, which started last November, the National Epidemiology Center collected, collated and analyzed the data from the participating hospitals.

Later on, doctor-trainees specializing in internal medicine and cardiology will be trained in encoding data to the central data bank.

The DEAR Heart program is consistent with the vision and mission of the PHA that by 2005, the Philippines will be pioneering in cardiovascular care and research in the Asia-Pacific region.

This nationwide program is intended to help assess the burden of cardiovascular disease, specifically heart failure.

"If successful, this registry will become a source of useful data. We hope it would encourage local clinical researches in heart failure and that could translate into an improvement in health service delivery among patients with failing hearts," Jorge said.

The program is a collaborative work among the PHA, the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center, Heart Failure Society of the Philippines, the Society of Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioners of the Philippines Inc. and AstraZeneca.

Aside from upgrading local clinical researches and profiling the Filipino heart failure patient, Jorge hopes that the DEAR Heart program will help pave the way for other surveillance programs dealing with other CVD risk factors.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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