WOMEN play a vital role in the fight against rheumatic fever and heart disease in Fiji.
This is the opinion of Rheumatic Heart Disease Control Program co-ordinator Emele Naicevu as the world marked the World Heart Day yesterday.
"Women are the first step in this fight as they are mothers.
"They are in control of the care of their children and if they do it right, these children will grow up healthy youths and become great leaders for our country," Mrs Naicevu said.
She said children from five to 15 years were more susceptible to rheumatic fever.
She said more than 220 cases were reported every year with 70 to 80 per cent of heart operations done on patients who suffer from rheumatic heart disease.
"This is caused by a bacterial infection," Mrs Naicevu said.
"The symptoms can be mistaken for a common bug and mostly it is normally brushed aside.
"If people, especially children, have sore throats, sore and swollen joints and have a recurrence of skin sores, please visit your nearest health centre straightaway."
Mrs Naicevu encouraged people to take control of their health and exercise regularly, avoid smoking cigarettes and drugs and eat healthy.
"We need to take action now, especially for mothers, so we can fight this and ensure we have healthy children and healthy futures."