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Dr. Junia Barong Crop

By Gynna P. Gagelonia

HANOI, Vietnam, Nov. 2-5, 2023 -- Valvular heart disease (VHD) and congenital heart disease (CHD) are two disciplines of cardiology that need urgent special attention after being neglected for some time. These programs are the top priorities of the ASEAN Federation of Cardiology (AFC).

AFC President-elect Dr. Alex Junia made the announcement during the AFC Council Meeting at the AFC Congress held from Nov. 2-4, 2023 in this city which is also called the Hanoi Capital. Held at the Trung Tam Hoi Nghi Quoc Gua National Convention Center, the 27th AFC Congress 2023 was themed: Cardiology at Crossroads: Challenges & Opportunities”.

A Filipino heart doctor who hails from Leyte and Cebu, Philippines, Junia is a well-respected cardiologist and vascular medicine specialist.  He is the 63rd president of the PHA (2015-2016) and PHA Cebu Chapter president (2010-2011).

He succeeded Dr. Rungroj Krittayaphong as AFC president, current Heart Association of Thailand president. The official turnover was held during the “Cultural Evening AFCC 2023” on Nov. 4, 2023 at the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake.  

The harsh reality is VHD and rheumatic heart cases in Southeast Asia are fast surging.  The lack of research and registry programs is a stumbling block that AFC, particularly PHA has to deal with.  

Junia stressed “AFC has to level up in this area.  We need a baseline, a starting point.”  

Clinical registries are a way to monitor the quality of cardiovascular care, probe differences in practice, enhance and ensure adherence to recommended care guidelines.   

Generally, the ASEAN cardiovascular community doesn’t have documentation of VHD and CHD prevalence.  The Philippines does not have a VHD and CHD/RHD research registry, either.

Junia added that the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) does not have a Council on VHD and a separate PHA Council for adult rheumatic fever-rheumatic heart disease cases. The creation of these Councils is crucial in putting a VHD and CHD registry in place.

Taking pride in the country’s and local cardiovascular setting’s latest feat, PHA President Dr. Ronald Cuyco pledged support for AFC’s flagship and major projects.

He said that “the plan is for the PHA to either put up a Council on VHD or incorporate it with the PHA Council on Cardiomyopathy; and expand the existing Council on RF-RHD to both include pedia and adult RHD.

VHD is a fast-growing cause of global cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.  RHD is the most common VHD that has been rising in developing nations.

The several causes of VHD include congenital condition, infections, degenerative condition and conditions linked to other types of heart disease.

The AFC-member countries are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore Thailand and Vietnam which are represented by their respective national heart societies.