By 2040, cardiovascular disease will outstrip HIV/AIDS as a leading killer in lower-income countries, Dr. Peter Lamptey said at a talk Monday.
Lamptey, president of the public health programs of Family Health International, proposed integrating HIV and cardiovascular disease support and treatment networks in developing countries with the aim of improving patient care and overall public health. Speaking to a group about 30 students, faculty and staff in the Anlyan Center, Lamptey discussed the transition of Family Health International from a group that aided family planning efforts into a global health organization. Students who attended the talk largely expressed satisfaction with Lamptey’s speech, but some had concerns surrounding the long-term effects of such a plan. The disease shift is already rapidly taking place, he said.
“Chronic diseases have taken over,” Lamptey said.
Founded in 1971, Family Health International mainly focuses on HIV/AIDS control and prevention projects in addition to preventing infectious diseases and improving sexual and reproductive health. Currently, though, the organization is shifting its focus to the “Big Four” chronic diseases — cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory disease — which are becoming increasingly prominent in middle-lower income nations. In doing so, Lamptey said the organization hopes to use the existing infrastructure of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention to improve the fight against these diseases.
Such integrations would eventually lead to a national system that distributes drugs, including HIV medications, Lamptey explained, instead of each disease having a separate distribution pathway. Lamptey cited a range of challenges to using HIV/AIDS processes in the case of cardiovascular disease, including securing sufficient funding and repeating the success of the HIV model with a different disease. Different diseases face different problems, he said.
“We trained all the nurses and doctors in a hospital in cardiovascular disease, but, within a year, more than one-half of the hospital had changed locations, so we had to go back and retrain them,” he said.
But, Lamptey said there is the possibility of a slippery slope when promoting public health in developing countries, particularly with respect to chronic diseases.
“Are we going to pay the people not to get cancer of the cervix?” he asked as an example of a slippery slope.
Some students in attendance disagreed with Lamptey’s premise, stating that developing countries should focus instead on a wider range of diseases, rather than acting in a reactive manner as Lamptey proposed. But Lamptey said that due to funding restrictions, focusing on the “Big Four” instead of the “Big Twenty” is the only feasible method.
“My biggest concern has been that we are always reacting and not being proactive,” Rhobhi Matinyi SPH ’12 said. “It’s frustrating.”
Other members of the audience, including Abu Hayford, an employee at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, said they found it interesting that cardiovascular disease has surpassed HIV in importance within developing countries.
Family Health International has operations in over fifty countries and is funded in part by USAID.