Fiji celebrates passing of global RHD resolution

Young people living with RHD at the Outrigger Resort. Picture: FELIX CHAUDHARY

THE Resolution on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease was officially passed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva.

The resolution was passed in May this year, two years after a high level advocacy campaign led by the governments of Fiji and New Zealand.

Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services celebrated the passing of this global RHD resolution via an interactive discussion session with a group of 22 young people living with RHD regarding the significance of this resolution to those living with the disease.

Health Minister Rosy Akbar said the passing of the global RHD resolution recognised Fiji’s continued commitment towards the prevention of RHD and the way forward was to strengthen the collaborative support among all stakeholders.

“All stakeholders including advocates, health workers, policymakers, civil societies, and of course, those here today representing the community of people living with RHD, will need to continue to work together to fulfill their commitment under the Global Resolution and take action on this preventable disease,” Ms Akbar was quoted saying in a Government statement issued yesterday.

Former Hibiscus contestant Buli Wainiqolo, who was diagnosed with RHD in 2011, has been working very closely with the Health Ministry as an advocate on RHD, and she spoke at the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva.

She acknowledged the Fijian Government’s ongoing commitment for addressing RHD in the island nation.

“I am proud of the Fijian Government for advocating for this resolution and for investing in RHD prevention and control. Fiji has one of the most established RHD programs in the world. Other countries with who are challenged with RHD are looking to us for guidance,” Miss Wainiqolo said.

“I believe that the RHD Resolution will only encourage other governments around the world to prioritise this disease, especially in countries where it is common. RHD is 100 per cent preventable but for the many individuals in Fiji, like myself, who have this disease it can be managed,” she said.

As part of a nationwide campaign, the RHD Prevention and Control Program encourages parents and carers to “think rheumatic heart fever” and seek medical advice when needed.

The program has had success in recent years in improving the treatment delivery rates to patients by more than 100 per cent across the country.

The program has achieved early RHD detection, screening, treatment in schools through the medical officers and nurses.

As a result of the school nurses training, 43 primary school students have been diagnosed with RHD in the Suva area in term two of this school year.

The Health ministry continues to emphasise that if RHD is picked up early enough and timely treatment is provided, patients have a good chances of living a normal and productive life.

The New Zealand Partnerships for International Development Fund is a major contributor to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services RHD Program along with support of Cure Kids New Zealand, Accor Hotels and the Fiji Water Foundation.

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