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Heart Health Month: Improving Global Access to Cardiac Care

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

February is Heart Health Month in the United States—a time when the country focuses on cardiovascular health and raises awareness of heart disease as the nation’s number one cause of death. But heart health is a major issue worldwide. 

Nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lacks access to safe, timely, and affordable cardiac surgery care, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This gap in care and education leads to a significant and problematic disparity in heart health among underserved populations across the globe.

To raise awareness, CTSNet Global is taking this Heart Heath Month global by highlighting organizations that are working to make cardiac care more accessible for all. The following five organizations support global surgical volunteerism, educational programs in underdeveloped medical settings, critical surgical care in low-resource areas and in the midst of war, and more. They are working against major inequity and scarcity of training and care but are stronger than ever in their effort to bridge that gap. 

Keep reading to learn more about each of these organizations and how you can support their work this Heart Health Month.

Edwards: Every Heartbeat Matters and Team Heart

While Edwards Life Sciences is typically known as a medical technology company, they have a robust philanthropic organization to bring the care they support to underserved populations. Every Heartbeat Matters is Edwards’ “authentic commitment to improving the lives of underserved structural heart and critical care patients.” The initiative leads a community of over fifty charitable organizations “in a shared vision of increased access to care, more sophisticated medical care, and patient recovery.”

Since 2014, the community of charitable organizations has impacted over two million people and is aiming to impact 2.5 million additional underserved patients’ lives by the end of 2025. Edwards defines “underserved” as “those who have a health disparity as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and lack awareness of, or access to, medically appropriate healthcare.” In support of their goal, the Edwards Foundation “supported the fellowship and training of the first cardiac surgeon in Rwanda via Every Heartbeat Matters partner Team Heart.”

The support for Team Heart, which is a smaller organization, comes in the form of funding, donation of Edwards technologies, and talent donation of Edwards employees. A milestone in their efforts came last quarter when, for the first time, a Rwandan surgeon performed cardiac surgery on a Rwandan patient without a supporting American team scrubbed in. 

“Team Heart is just one of the many efforts supported by Edwards EHM initiative to impact underserved patients, and it’s a source of pride, joy, and impact for every single one of our 17K+ employees, because every heartbeat matters.”


In low- and middle-income countries, around 2 million people die every year due to the prohibitive cost and inaccessible surgical care required to receive lifesaving pacemaker implantation surgery. Meanwhile, pacemakers in the United Kingdom and other high-income nations are regularly discarded when their users die. To remedy this gap in the global healthcare system, Pace4Life reuses discarded pacemakers in patients who would otherwise not have access to this type of critical device.

Pace4Life was founded in 2012 and is now run by CTSNet Associate Editor Joel Dunning. In 2022, the organization sent 200 pacemakers to ten countries to be fitted to patients who could not otherwise afford them. They have also begun a randomized trial, which provides patients who need one with a reconditioned pacemaker or even a brand-new pacemaker paid for by Pace4Life. They are working to make this lifesaving piece of technology accessible to everyone who needs one.

VOOM Foundation

Focusing on the needs of a specific country allows VOOM Foundation to provide localized care to patients in Nigeria, where the healthcare system is poorly developed, especially in rural areas. VOOM completed their first educational medical mission in 2011, traveling with a team of surgeons to Nigeria to perform surgeries and train local cardiac surgery teams. This was followed in 2013 by the setup of permanent educational infrastructure at The University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital to facilitate training of local surgeons.

Since then, VOOM has organized dozens of surgical missions each year, strengthened relationships with Nigerian hospitals, and established new teaching programs to further their mission. The foundation even partnered with a local organization to open The Dame Irene Okwuosa Memorial Hospital in 2022 and performed its first open-heart surgery on an adult there in May. These local partnerships are crucial in establishing a stable cardiac surgical care network that can persist for decades to come.

Novick Cardiac Alliance 

In 1993, Dr. William Novick began to gather resources, connect with local organizations, and research ways he could help to improve access to cardiac care in low- and middle-income countries. After over ten years of building the organization, Novick Cardiac Alliance was formed in 2014. The organization is focused on building local cardiac surgery teams and providing them with the support they need to help children who would otherwise not have access to the cardiac care they need.

More recently, Novick Cardiac Alliance has been involved in efforts to provide cardiac care in areas of conflict. Groups of surgeons made trips to Ukraine in 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea, and again in 2022, after the most recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only have they helped with direct medical consequences of the conflict, but they have also supported local hospitals in establishing infrastructure such as new cardiac intensive care units, operating rooms, and catheterization labs.

Novick Cardiac Alliance is passionate about their focus on areas experiencing conflict. A representative told CTSNet that, “War is a complete waste of human resources. In addition to the lives lost directly or indirectly on the battlefield, the disruption of routine medical care adds mortality. Education is disrupted, and children are impacted for the rest of their lives. 

"We will continue to provide clinical and educational services to those areas in need, regardless of the machinations of those wanting to destroy cultures, countries, economies, and families."

Other Organizations

Organizations around the world, large and small, are working to make cardiac surgical care more accessible to people who cannot afford it. In particular, groups like Global ARCH and Children’s HeartLink focus on children in low- and middle-income countries who need heart surgery for congenital heart defects or rheumatic heart disease, which affect about 1.3 million children annually worldwide.

Other organizations, like Global Cardiac Surgery Initiative and Global Surgery Foundation, interact with government officials, NGOs, and academic centers to heighten awareness and action surrounding global surgery. The work of these groups encourages trainees and surgeons from around the world to work together to provide more equitable cardiac surgical care.


Global surgery initiatives are working against major inequity and scarcity of training and care but are stronger than ever in their effort to bridge that gap. Celebrate Heart Health Month with CTSNet Global this February by learning more about these organizations and supporting their important work.

Check out the CTSNet Global portal to learn more about cardiac surgery in low- and middle-income countries, find opportunities for surgical volunteerism, and explore insightful interviews with global surgeons.

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