President of the National Association of Cardiologists in Mexico (ANCAM)

Emphasizing a Holistic Approach to Prevention

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 09:27

Although cardiologists can work to prevent heart diseases, the most effective strategy to decrease incidences would be to follow a holistic approach where all doctors and specialists collaborate in identifying risk factors, says Pedro Gutiérrez-Fajardo, President of the National Association of Cardiologists in Mexico (ANCAM). “We need to prioritize prevention. It is the easiest and most economical way to get the best medical results,” he says.
ANCAM has a 35-year history and Gutiérrez-Fajardo says that in that time, the association has consolidated by maintaining an open and inclusive approach toward its members. “ANCAM hosts graduates from 28 cardiology schools in the country. We have also worked to establish collaboration agreements with different national cardiology societies and international institutions, such as the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, the American Society of Echocardiography and the European Society of Cardiology, to maintain a constant influx of information,” he says.
The association focuses on constantly providing updated information to cardiologists and also shares this data with other specialists. “We organize regional events where we invite doctors and nurses from areas like emergency and intensive care, endocrinology and gynecology,” he says. The holistic approach the association is taking is rooted in a single idea: prevention. However, the hardest part to making this approach successful is boosting understanding among the general population regarding the importance of prevention and how to minimize risk factors, according to Gutiérrez-Fajardo.
Although ANCAM uses social media to deliver concrete and understandable information regarding prevention of heart disease to the general population, Gutiérrez-Fajardo says there are priority groups in which the association needs to focus, with children, young adults and women among the most important. “There are more women dying of heart disease than of breast cancer. We are joining forces with gynecologists, so whenever women go for their routine checkups, specialists can detect risk factors related to heart disease early and direct patients to a cardiologist.”
With children, however, ANCAM’s strategy is completely different since the risks they face change completely. “An obese child will become a hypertensive patient at an early age, which increases the possibility of experiencing a heart attack earlier. This situation, when replicated, generates a heavier strain on the national health system,” says Gutiérrez-Fajardo. However, with children, there also is an increased opportunity for effective communication. “Children are very receptive, so we want to develop an educational program that focuses on the creation of healthy habits, such as eating healthy food, hydrating, exercising and sleeping well. We hope to not only educate children but to educate their parents, as well.”
For Gutiérrez-Fajardo, prevention goes beyond the medical sphere, impacting directly on the country’s development. “Health, education and economic development go hand in hand. There is no point in having a young population with high productivity potential if it is sick. Rather than being an asset for the economy they can become a strain on the health system,” he says.
Besides its own campaigns, ANCAM also has reached out to the public sector to collaborate in the creation of public policies that prioritize prevention at an early age. “We are trying to work with the Chamber of Deputies to bring forward a proposal to engage in this topic more seriously.” Gutiérrez -Fajardo suggests the prohibition of junk food in schools and in areas surrounding them. “It is a matter of providing education and healthy options from an early age, but we need to work alongside the public sector.”
While this collaboration solidifies, ANCAM will continue working to strengthen its alliances and collaboration agreements with other institutions to keep promoting healthy habits and services among the general population. “The important thing is to continue working on education,” says Gutiérrez-Fajardo.