Of the 56.4 million deaths worldwide in 2015, ischemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke accounted for a combined 15 million deaths. Of these two, IHD is the single largest cause of death worldwide, causing 7,249,000 deaths in 2008 or 12.7% of total global mortality. Eighty percent of those were from poor and middle-income countries.
Despite medical advances and significant declines in cardiovascular deaths in some nations, the gap in access to cardiovascular healthcare between developed and undeveloped countries continues to widen. Although a large proportion of CVDs is preventable, deaths continue to rise mainly because preventive measures are inadequate in many countries.
To combat this no. 1 killer in undeveloped countries, CardioStart International was founded in 1987 by a dedicated group of volunteers whose vision was to work toward a world where access to cardiac care is universally available. The organization draws volunteers from around the world for two-week missions in such countries as Peru, Tanzania, Nepal, Haiti, Uganda and Vietnam. To date, CardioStart has completed at least 55 missions in 27 countries.
One intent of each mission is to teach local doctors and nurses advanced cardiac care in order to improve surgical outcomes and overall patient care long after the volunteers have left a country. As part of each surgical mission, the medical team collaborates with the local hospital’s staff to perform cardiac surgery, pacemaker implantations, teach cardiac surgical techniques, ICU procedures and other patient care.
In addition, CardioStart ships cargo containers and pallets of much-needed medical supplies and equipment to countries where upcoming missions will take place. All supplies that CardioStart ships are donated from US hospitals, notably All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL.
Another focus of a Cardiostart mission is outreach. Volunteers, medical and non-medical, participate in outreach activities such as helping to paint, clean, landscape, repair physical structures such as orphanages, schools or an elderly group home. Other outreach efforts include conducting physical exams and health assessments of the poor who have little to no access to healthcare. Volunteers teach personal hygiene, nutrition, good dental practices and wound care, and alert folks to the warning signs and symptoms for heart attack and stroke. Volunteers have helped children and adults through music and art therapy, exercise, and relaxation techniques.