By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Millions of people could be trained in CPR with the help of the American Heart Association under an agreement with the Chinese government announced Tuesday, part of a new effort to save lives in a country where about 290 million people have cardiovascular diseases.
Although it is not the first such collaboration between the AHA and a foreign government, it is one of the most significant given its potential impact, the organization said.
AHA leaders and Chinese officials signed the agreement in Washington, D.C., during a two-day summit between the U.S. and Chinese governments about health, culture, education and other areas.
“Heart disease knows no national boundaries,” said Gordon Tomaselli, M.D., a past president of the AHA and director of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “This agreement is part of a bigger piece of diplomacy that involves not only health, but also the interests of our populations more broadly.”
Tomaselli is serving as AHA’s volunteer representative at the high-level talks that are aimed at strengthening ties between the United States and China. AHA has collaborated with Chinese cardiologists and others for more than a decade. But this marks the first time that the nonprofit, with help from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has entered a formal agreement with China.
At the signing, representatives from both countries emphasized a commitment to reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong said the U.S. and China must jointly rise up to the challenges of human health.
“We believe it is important to strengthen cooperation on scientific research … and increase health and well-being of people of our two countries,” she said. “We are ready to work together with the U.S. side to promote more projects.”
AHA and Chinese officials will meet in the coming months to discuss how to implement and fund the efforts.
China is the most populated country and home to a fifth of the world’s population — nearly 1.4 billion people. If just 5 percent were CPR-trained, roughly 70 million more people would know how to respond to a cardiac arrest.
Douglas Boyle chairs the AHA International Committee and said CPR training will save lives in China.
“The vast majority of cardiovascular incidents occur in public and in people’s homes. So if you’ve got a broad population trained on how to handle an event like that, how to keep someone alive, it could have a real impact on mortality in China,” Boyle said.
The new agreement between the AHA and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology also includes a physician exchange program to improve cardiovascular care and health in both countries, as well as greater sharing of each nation’s scientific research at AHA conferences and medical meetings in China.
The agreement comes after a year of talks that had the AHA and China looking for ways to impact health in a country where cardiovascular diseases are taking a heavy toll.
About 3.5 million people die from cardiovascular diseases every year in China, according to data from a 2012 report from the National Center for Cardiovascular Diseases of China. That represents about 41 percent of all deaths in China. And that is markedly higher than the 31 percent rate in the United States, where cardiovascular death rates have been dropping in recent years.
“These nations are beginning to develop the modern disease profile that Americans are quite familiar with and that we’ve been working on for years that we can share with them,” Boyle said.
The agreement may also help stem the rising financial burden of cardiovascular diseases in China. A 2011 report from the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that the total global cost of cardiovascular disease will top $1 trillion by 2025.
“If the Chinese have serious problems with the health of their population, the resultant rising cost of goods and services will spill over to this country,” said Tomaselli.
“It’s in our humanitarian as well as economic best interest to share best practices,” he said, “and to ensure that the health of people outside the United States is optimized.”
Photo by Moshe Zusman