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Focus on key issues impeding delivery of effective cardiac care in resource-limited settings

is defined by life-threatening conditions, which require close evaluation, monitoring, and treatment by appropriately trained health professionals. Cardiovascular care bears these same requirements. In fact, will soon surpass even human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the leading cause of mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the latest issue of Global Heart, researchers discuss the challenges of delivering critical care in resource-limited countries.

According to Guest Editors Vanessa Kerry, MD, MSc, and Sadath Sayeed, MD, JD, “Critical care as a clinical discipline in resource-rich settings is associated with high resource (financial, human, technological) intensity. For this reason, among others, critical care has received far less investment in resource-poor countries… Although numerous challenges to scaling up high quality intensive care services present themselves, even more opportunities to creatively innovate in this field exist that hold promise to move us closer to equity in global healthcare.” They argue that investments in critical care need not be technology or cost intensive, but they should be appropriate and effective.

Critical care is an area of needed scale-up. Although the massive influx of effort and funding of HIV treatment has resulted in significant gains in life expectancy and health system strengthening, a lack of critical care resources in disadvantaged areas remains. Interventions in critical care in these settings are justified. In resource-limited settings, the majority of critically ill patients are children and young adults and avoiding preventable death would reduce mortality and disease burden as well as have socioeconomic impacts.”

This issue of Global Heart, “Critical Care in Resource-Limited Settings,” includes coverage by a group of internationally recognized experts on important topics pertaining to the delivery of healthcare to low-income countries.

Key concerns explored include:

Sepsis:

  • The definition of sepsis is controversial
  • Standards of treatment in high-income areas differ from low- or medium-income areas and possible areas for intervention and improved care

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS):

  • Lack of diagnostic resources in resource-limited settings makes it difficult to even identify ARDS
  • Alternate diagnostic methods may allow recognition of ARDS in resource-poor settings
  • Some effective interventions for ARDS may be feasible in resource-poor settings

Pulmonary Vascular Disease (PVD):

  • The vast majority of patients with PVD globally have limited access to diagnosis and therapies

  • PVD is likely underestimated in resource-limited settings but is of risk due to causes such as endemic infectious diseases and environmental factors
  • Disease awareness and prevention will have the greatest effect on PVD incidence in resource-limited countries

Cardiac Care in Resource-Limited Environments:

  • Cardiovascular disease is emerging rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Scale up of cardiac care facilities and education should be appropriately triaged to meet broad needs in the community, not just highly focused specialties in a few sites
  • The central importance of medical and nursing education will have to be prioritized in resource-limited countries