World Heart Day 2010-The State of the Heart Report

Today is the 10th anniversary of the World Heart Day. To commemorate the occasion the World Heart Federation (WHF)  has released its ‘State of the Heart’ report. The report has been put together by the WHF in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WHF has put out this report ‘ to reflect on the great achievements in cardiovascular disease (CVD) over the past decade, and raises awareness of the challenges still ahead of us in the fight against the number one killer worldwide.’ 

Every year more than 17 mn people die of Cardio-Vascular Disease (CVD). 82% of these deaths are in developing countries like India. Many of these deaths can be easily prevented if adequate awareness is created about the lifestyle modifications needed to combat CVD’s. A balanced diet, regular exercise, management of stress and avoiding tobacco can itself help save many lives, but many people particularly in the developing world either do not know about these simple measures or do not attach much importance to them, until of course they fall prey to the disease. 

The CVD report traces the contours of the global fight against CVD’s and lists ten of its most significant achievements. It also highlights some important challenges, which continue to obstruct the global effort in combating CVD’s.  

The key achievements listed in the report are categorised under 


Recognition of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) of which CVD is the number one killer, as an urgent public health priority by the United Nations (UN). On 13th May 2010 the UN General Assembly voted unanimously for UN Resolution 64/265 to hold a Summit on NCDs in September 2011  

The widespread adoption of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which catalyzed global action towards a smoke-free world

The launch of awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of diet and physical activity on heart health

Expanded efforts by organizations to mobilize companies to invest in workplace-wellness initiatives to promote health amongst employees


Improved recognition of the symptoms and treatment for heart attacks

The introduction of quality improvement programmes within hospitals

Improved public awareness of, and access to, CVD healthcare in developing countries

Statin therapy which ‘revolutionized’ the treatment of elevated cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease and heart attacks in people with very high cholesterol levels 
The development of monitors to assist in the correct diagnosis of atrial fibrillation
Advances in diagnosing and treating congenital heart defects.

The report also highlights the ongoing challenges in combating CVD’s and seeks ways and means to partner various stakeholders in this effort. The challenges identified are the following. 

  1. Secure an outcomes statement at the UN High Level Summit on NCDs, taking place in September 2011
  2. Enhance benefits of smoking cessation and implement affordable smoking cessation programmes at the community level
  3. Increase access to affordable, quality essential medicines for CVD in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC’s) 
  4. Close disparities in CVD health
  5. Increase the prevalence of workplace-wellness initiatives
  6. Integrate CVD prevention, detection and treatment into primary healthcare setting.
  7. Increase the CVD health workforce
  8. Strengthen global, regional and national partnerships
  9. Improve data collection and monitoring of care provided to coronary heart disease patients

It is easy to see some of these challenges in the Indian context and they do have a ring of truth about them. We need a sustained and concerted effort along these lines to make some progress in fighting CVD’s. We need money, a dedicated task force, governmental support and a single-minded focus to make a serious difference. 

The fight must go on. 






Marketing A Laparoscopic Surgery Program

Marketing a surgery program is fraught with risks. Barring surgeons, I am yet to meet someone who looks forward to a surgery. Most people try to avoid surgery as much as they can. They will come up with all kinds of excuses including astrological considerations, the weather not being right (it is either too hot or cold or raining) or waiting for a son or a daughter who lives abroad to arrive before they can go under the knife.

The fear of surgery is universal and whatever the surgeon might say (I have done it a thousand times, I do it every day etc.), the fear of surgery just does not dissipate. Whatever the surgeon may say, the fact remains that patients undergo surgery only when they do not have any other medical recourse. Given a choice between a surgery and any other non-invasive medical procedure a patient will always choose the latter.

Now, marketing a surgical program, which no one wants (or at best agrees to only as a last resort) is to say the least, challenging. With the advancement of technology a whole lot of surgeries can be done using a laparoscopic techniques. This is indeed a great boon for patients, who as I mentioned earlier are extremely reluctant to go under the knife and by corollary once subjected to surgery are very keen to return home to normal life. Laparoscopic surgery, which is also at times called Minimally Invasive Surgery allows surgeons to operate with just a few holes through, which they insert a camera and other equipment necessary for the surgery. Minimally Invasive Surgery is far superior to conventional open surgery as it is a lot safer, allows faster recovery, has less chances of infection and usually involves minimal loss of blood.

To effectively market a laparoscopic surgical program it is essential that the patient understands its huge benefits. Since, patients after a surgery want to return home faster, I would suggest that we brand the laparoscopic surgery program as ‘Short Stay Surgery’ program. This is easily understood by all and has a certain appeal for patients-instead of focusing on surgery, they would rather look forward to a short hospital stay and a quick return to home. Fortunately, many surgical procedures done laparoscopically allows patients to return home with in 24 hours, which is just great.

Once the program is branded as ‘Short Stay Surgery’ program the other benefits of the program must be highlighted all flowing into the core benefit of  a short stay in the hospital. The surgeons in their spiel should highlight this aspect of surgery as much as they can. This is not to say that they should gloss over the risk factors of the surgical procedure, it is just that the prospect of a possible shorter stay in the hospital will make the patient feel a lot better.

The advertising communication should highlight facts such as faster recovery, minimal scarring, less pain, low blood loss  and less chances of infection as clear advantages of laparoscopic surgery. It should then connect this up with the core benefit of a shorter stay in the hospital. I believe such an approach can go a long way in popularising minimally invasive surgery and patients will actively seek a surgical intervention at the right time rather than wait till there is an emergency and waiting may no longer be possible.

The tonality of messaging is just as critical as the message itself. One has to be very careful in not sounding over enthusiastic and too keen in the advertising. One must remember that inspite of all the advantages of laparoscopic surgery, it still is surgery. From a patient’s perspective this involves a detour to the hospital and the attendant risks can not be just wished away. The communication must be couched in a language, which is solicitous, understanding and educative. It should connect with the patient and help him understand that the short stay surgery program lessens risks significantly and allows him to get over the medical crisis faster.

The use of media of course depends on the budget available with the hospital.  Print, Television, Outdoors, Radio, digital and BTL can all be effectively used to create an impactful campaign. The choice of media can amplify the messaging and help more people connect with the hospital.

And choose laparoscopic surgery in time rather than wait till they are left with no choice.