Valentin Fuster, MD


October 10, 2011

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Valentin Fuster, MD: Good morning. I am Valentin Fuster from New York. I am the Director of the Mount Sinai Heart Center in New York City, Past President of the American Heart Association and of the World Heart Federation. I am here at the United Nations Summit on Noncommunicable Diseases in New York City, a very important meeting during which I'm going to summarize 3 important messages.

I had the opportunity to chair a committee of the Institute of Medicine that very recently displayed the 3 main challenges that we have today in noncommunicable diseases.

  • First is the lack of intersectoral communication at the highest levels of government;

  • Second are the difficulties in the community of controlling risk factors or modifying behaviors in adults; and

  • Third is the poor health education that we have for our children.

In terms of the first item [regarding] intersectoral communication, we are now working in the island of Grenada, which has 100,000 people and a very committed government, and we are planning to follow the 12 recommendations of the Institute of Medicine that are based on policymaking and data-gathering for good communication with other countries. These 12 recommendations will be implemented; we want to prove that this is feasible in a country.

For the second [challenge], in terms of adults in the community, we plan to compare groups of 10 [individuals each] that follow a process similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous, but in this case helping each other in terms of blood pressure, good nutrition, and physical activity. [We will] compare these communities of 10 with [groups] of other 10 individuals who don't work by helping each other. We believe that to change behavior in the adults, we need help, we need support.

And the third project is a very interesting one in terms of children, and it's based on our findings with 6,000 children aged 3 to 6 in Bogotá, Colombia, where we compared a group, in which, for over 40 hours over a period of 6 months, we implemented an [intervention to make] health a priority. We talked about physical activity, nutrition, knowing your body, and controlling your emotions, [and we] compared them with another group in which we didn't have such an intense education. The results were quite striking.

In the group where we intervened, [in partnership] with Sesame Street, an organization that you know very well, we found that the children have a greater impact on changing the behavior of their parents than the parents do in changing the behavior of the children. In other words, these children were able to convey to the parents the importance of better nutrition, stopping smoking, having dinner with the family, and so forth. And the same children had an impact on the teachers. That program of 6000 children has now been converted for 25,000 children in 50 schools in Spain. We [also] plan to implement this in Grenada.

And again, [we are] trying to work on an island in which we can address the 3 main challenges that are being pointed out at the UN summit-meeting in New York. One is intersectoral communication at the level of the government; second is to work with the adults in the community, helping each other in terms of behavior modification and risk factors; and third, is to convey to children aged 3-6 years, who are very receptive, the importance of health as a priority and thinking that when they are adults that their behavior will be different. There is no question that our behavior as adults really depends very much on what we learn at this early age.

Thank you very much.


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