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Fellowship helps Heine tackle heart disease in low-resource settings
Author: FMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie – Sue Segar
Published: 29/09/2020

​Senior postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine (ISEM), Dr Martin Heine, has been accepted into the World Heart Federation's prestigious Salim Yusuf Emerging Leaders Programme, an accolade which, he said, is an indirect endorsement of his dedicated work in patient-centred rehabilitation in low-resourced settings.

Heine received the news earlier this year that he had been selected to the programme which focuses on creating a platform for global collaborative research projects with the aim of realizing shared goals towards reducing cardiovascular disease worldwide.

A delighted Heine said his selection onto the programme is “an honour and an opportunity to learn" from his peers based in other countries.

For the past four years, most of Heine's work has been focussed on building sustainable interventions for people with chronic disease. One of his benchmark studies, for which data collection has been completed and analysis is underway, took place in Bishop Lavis (Cape Town). The study is trying to determine the feasibility of a more patient-centred rehabilitation programme for people with non-communicable diseases.

Heine is focussing, through his work, on moving away from a disease-centred approach to a more holistic approach to patients, and thereby future-proofing the field of rehabilitation medicine for the high levels of multimorbidity often seen in low-resourced settings specifically. 

He said his acceptance into the programme is an indication that his work is going in the right direction and that it is gaining traction.

However, he quickly adds, “this award is not about me, it's about strengthening the research I am doing for a greater impact. It will be interesting to learn from some of the ideas and solutions proposed by other countries with similar resource-constraints and challenges and to see if we can find common ground to strengthen our research."  

The World Heart Federation (WHF) Salim Yusuf Emerging Leaders Programme was created in 2014 by world-renowned leader in global cardiovascular disease research and WHF Past President, Professor Salim Yusuf. The initiative is one of the first international training programmes on cardiovascular health policy research, health systems and implementation science.

The programme's main goal is to build up capacity, professional development, mentorship and networking of WHF Emerging Leaders in 100 countries. Together, they research and act to reduce premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases globally in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets around non-communicable diseases.

Heine said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the planned programme of the 25 selected fellows who were originally scheduled to get together in Portugal in September to participate in training programmes and seminars with experts on the key challenges around the management of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“The idea was that, out of these engagements would come one or more fundable research proposals that would bind the emerging leaders together in some of the work we proposed.

“So, all the training, networking and collaboration is expected to culminate in funding proposals, one or two of which may be funded by the World Heart Federation moving forward. On top of that, a number of the fellows have clinical duties and are on high alert for Covid-19 at the moment and cannot put in the time. For now, they have postponed that part of the programme until 2021.

“Nevertheless, this is going to be a very exciting opportunity. When I see the wonderful diversity of people from both a clinical and an academic perspective who are taking part - and the countries which the fellows represent – including India, Australia, Nepal, Lebanon, Iraq, Scandinavia, South America and Europe, I am very excited to see what I can learn about cardiovascular disease management and diabetes from colleagues around the world - especially those in low-resource settings, such as Brazil, Nepal, and Bangladesh."