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1.  Rheumatic heart disease: pilot study for a population-based evaluation of prevalence and cardiovascular outcomes among schoolchildren in Nepal 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001616.
Objectives
To evaluate a protocol for a population-based programme targeting the prevention of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) progression by early echocardiographic diagnosis of valvular lesions and timely implementation of secondary prevention.
Design
Observational survey with a subsequent prospective cohort study.
Setting
Private boarding school in the urban area of the Sunsari district situated on the foothills of the Lower Himalayan Range in Eastern Nepal.
Participants
Fifty-four unselected school-going children 5–15 years of age, 24 girls and 30 boys.
Primary outcome measure
Logistic feasibility of a large-scale population-based screening study using the echocardiographic criteria formulated by the World Heart Federation, with longitudinal follow-up of children with definite or borderline RHD in a prospective cohort study.
Results
Standardised interview, physical examination and screening echocardiography were performed in a three-staged process and took approximately 6 min per child. Socio-economic status was assessed using surrogate markers such as the occupation of the primary caregiver, numbers of rooms at home, car, television, cell phone and internet connection. Physical examination was focused on cardiac auscultation and signs of acute rheumatic fever and targeted echocardiography was performed by an independent examiner without knowledge of the clinical findings. Two children with evidence of borderline RHD were re-examined at B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences and the indication for secondary antibiotic prevention was discussed with the parents and the children. At 6 months of follow-up, echocardiographic findings were stable in both children. Implementation of secondary antibiotic prevention was challenged by impaired awareness of subclinical RHD among parents and inadequate cooperation with family physicians.
Conclusions
This pilot study shows that the methods outlined in the protocol can be translated into a large-scale population-based study. We learned that education and collaboration with teachers, parents and family physicians/paediatricians will be of key importance in order to establish a sustainable programme.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001616
PMCID: PMC3488717  PMID: 23087010
Cardiology
2.  Preventing renal and cardiovascular risk by renal function assessment: insights from a cross-sectional study in low-income countries and the USA 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001357.
Objective
To assess the prevalence of microalbuminuria and kidney dysfunction in low-income countries and in the USA.
Design
Cross-sectional study of screening programmes in five countries.
Setting
Screening programmes in Nepal, Bolivia, the USA (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005–2008) Bangladesh and Georgia.
Participants
General population in Nepal (n=20 811), Bolivia (n=3436) and in the USA (n=4299) and high-risk subjects in Bangladesh (n=1518) and Georgia (n=1549).
Primary and secondary outcome measures
Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR)<60ml/min/1.73 m2 and microalbuminuria (defined as urinary albumin creatinine ratio values of 30–300 mg/g) were the main outcome measures. The cardiovascular (CV) risk was also evaluated on the basis of demographic, clinical and blood data.
Results
The prevalence of eGFR<60ml/min/1.73 m2 was 19%, 3.2% and 7% in Nepal, Bolivia and the USA, respectively. In Nepal, 7% of subjects were microalbuminuric compared to 8.6% in the USA. The prevalence of participants with predicted 10-year CV disease (CVD) risk ≥10% was 16.9%, 9.4% and 17% in Nepal, Bolivia and in the USA, respectively. In Bangladesh and Georgia, subjects with eGFR<60 ml/min/1.73 m2 were 8.6% and 4.9%, whereas those with microalbuminuria were 45.4% and 56.5%, respectively. Predicted 10-year CVD risk ≥10% was 25.4% and 25% in Bangladesh and Georgia, respectively.
Conclusions
Renal abnormalities are common among low-income countries and in the USA. Prevention programmes, particularly focused on those with renal abnormalities, should be established worldwide to prevent CVD and progression to end-stage renal disease.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001357
PMCID: PMC3467605  PMID: 23002161
3.  Protocol for a population-based study of rheumatic heart disease prevalence and cardiovascular outcomes among schoolchildren in Nepal 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e001320.
Introduction
Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) remains a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in developing countries. The reported prevalence rates of RHD are highly variable and mainly attributable to differences in the sensitivity of either clinical screening to detect advanced heart disease or echocardiographic evaluation where disease is diagnosed earlier across a continuous spectrum. The clinical significance of diagnosis of subclinical RHD by echocardiographic screening and early implementation of secondary prevention has not been clearly established.
Methods and analysis
The authors designed a cross-sectional survey to determine the prevalence of RHD in children from private and public schools between the age of 5 and 15 years in urban and rural areas of Eastern Nepal using both cardiac auscultation and echocardiographic evaluation. Children with RHD will be treated with secondary prevention and enrolled in a prospective cohort study. The authors will compare the prevalence rates by cardiac auscultation and echocardiography, determine risk factors associated with diagnosis and progression of RHD, investigate social and economic barriers for receiving adequate cardiac care and assess clinical outcomes with regular medical surveillance as a function of stage of disease at the time of diagnosis. Prospective clinical studies investigating the impact of secondary prevention for subclinical RHD on long-term clinical outcome will be of central relevance for future health resource utilisation in developing countries.
Ethics and dissemination
The study was considered ethically uncritical and was given an exempt status by the ethics committee at University of Bern, Switzerland. The study has been submitted to the National Nepal Health Research Council and was registered with http://www.ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT01550068). The study findings will be reported in peer-reviewed publications.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier
NCT01550068.
Article summary
Article focus
Study protocol of a population-based evaluation of the prevalence rate of RHD among schoolchildren in Eastern Nepal, with a subsequent prospective longitudinal cohort study assessing long-term clinical outcome of children undergoing secondary prevention for borderline and definite RHD according to the World Heart Federation criteria.
Key messages
RHD remains a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in developing countries.
Echocardiographic screening allows diagnosis of RHD at an earlier stage across a continuous spectrum as compared with cardiac auscultation.
The clinical significance of diagnosis of subclinical RHD by echocardiographic screening and early implementation of secondary prevention has not been clearly established.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The protocol describes a comprehensive approach to implement echocardiographic screening in a high prevalence region as recommended by the WHO and outlines a robust analysis plan to investigate clinical outcome with secondary prevention for subclinical RHD.
Since access to education is a marker of socioeconomic status, restriction of screening to school going children is subjected to selection bias likely to underestimate the real disease burden related to RHD in Eastern Nepal.
Cultural sensitivity with education programmes and focus group discussions will anticipate the potential social stigma of a diagnosis with a heart condition during childhood and increase public awareness.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001320
PMCID: PMC3371575  PMID: 22685225

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