The Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s (HFJ) life-saving screening services have received another boost from the CHASE Fund which has facilitated the purchase of a mobile echocardiogram at a cost of J$6.4 million. The machine was officially handed over yesterday by the Chief Executive Officer of the CHASE Fund, Mr. W. Billy Heaven at the CHASE Fund’s Belmont Road address.
Mr. Heaven noted that CHASE’s focus on primary health care in Jamaica is deliberate and in keeping with the national direction and policy. “After 15 years of intervention in the public healthcare system, the Fund is now looking at ways that we can have a larger and more lasting impact on the sector particularly as it relates to the provision of cutting edge diagnostic and rehabilitative equipment like the echocardiogram which was presented to the HFJ today”, he said.
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Jamaica, incapacitating thousands of people – some of them for life – and hampering national productivity. An echocardiogram is a modern technique that allows physicians to evaluate the heart without inserting tubes or wires. The images produced allows the physician to identify various abnormalities in the heart.
The Heart Foundation currently screens over 250 persons per month at their head office. The mobile echocardiogram will enable the Foundation to screen an additional 150 persons per month at their head office and an additional 50 at satellite locations including health fairs.
Executive Director of the HFJ, Mrs. Deborah Chen in accepting the machine said “the Heart Foundation of Jamaica is very happy and appreciative of the donation of this echocardiogram machine. Presently we have only one machine which limits the number of echo’s that can be done daily.” She further stated that the additional machine will allow the HFJ to offer this service island wide. “We are particularly pleased that we will be able to offer this service to patients in hospitals where it may not available,” she said.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Jamaica. The Jamaica Health and Lifestyle survey found that 25% of Jamaicans had high blood pressure, 35% had pre hypertension, 12% had high cholesterol while 8% had diabetes. Over 50% of the population is overweight or obese.
“We applaud the Minister of Health for the formation of the Food Industry Task Force in an effort to address the obesity epidemic. If no action is taken there will be an additional 20,000 obese persons each year,” Mrs Chen noted. She also noted that the HFJ also supports the Jamaica Moves initiative which aims to encourage Jamaicans to increase their level of physical activity.
The HFJ conducts screening island wide and when persons are found to be at risk they are referred for further testing. This may include an echocardiogram. The HFJ also conducts islandwide screening for sudden cardiac arrest, a test which is particularly important for those involved in any athletic activity such as football, track or swimming. After the initial screening some persons may be referred for further testing and again this would involve an echocardiogram.