HUNDREDS of people from government ministries and companies raised awareness for rheumatic heart disease through the Westpac Health Walk in Suva yesterday.
The walk, which began from Albert Park to the Fringing Reef bar marked the end of RHD Awareness Week, an initiative by Rotary Club of Suva and the Health Ministry.
Non-communicable diseases national adviser Dr Isimeli Tukana praised the initiative and challenged everyone to walk every day.
"There is an emerging problem for our Fijian children. We need to recognise sore throats because we want to prevent it and sore throats are directly associated with heart disease, especially rheumatic heart disease," he said.
"We find that more and more of our children are getting heart disease just because of sore throats, just because we don't take it seriously."
Dr Tukana confirmed 80 per cent of open heart surgeries in Fiji were for RHD.
"There is treatment available but the basic thing is prevention. Whenever they get a sore throat, immediately take them to the nearest hospital.
Look out for sore throat, children will not necessarily tell you but your child's eating habits can tell you. Work on oral hygiene, the bug is part of the oral flora."
He's expecting more parents to bring their children into hospitals and centres to get tested for acute rheumatic fever or RHD.
"I'm targeting the parents. It's the parents who need to watch out for sore throats. Culturally, sore throat is nothing for us but it's time to recognise it and get to your nearest health centre."