What We Do
Our overarching mission is to serve the people of Yunnan through:
- Training local healthcare professionals in the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease
- Improving access to high-quality healthcare and life-saving treatments
- Researching the epidemiology of heart disease, the effectiveness of our interventions, and other topics of critical value to rural Chinese populations.
The activities of the China California Heart Watch generate no profits. We operate solely through the generosity and vision of our donors, foundations, and granting agencies.
Pediatric Heart Care and Screenings
In the United States and other Western countries, virtually all newborns are screened for congenital heart defects at birth and during their first year of life. Infants who are found to have a congenital heart defect will then undergo surgery, allowing the child to lead a normal, healthy life. Unfortunately, in many areas of rural China, the capacity to screen all newborns for congenital heart disease is lacking, and treatment for those who are detected is frequently unavailable. If left untreated, children suffering from congenital heart defects are likely to die before they reach adulthood. With the support of our donors, the China California Heart Watch has screened thousands of children living in rural villages in Yunnan. Our screening missions give children who were previously undiagnosed the opportunity to undergo curative treatment and to enjoy a healthy life.
The families of rural children with heart disease are very poor. Incomes range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per year. Once we find a child with a treatable heart defect, we discuss the diagnosis with their family and offer the opportunity to apply for financial assistance either from our own funds, from government plans, or from private foundations and other charities with which we work. In no circumstance where we have discovered a treatable heart defect has the child not received appropriate surgical intervention because of a lack of funds.
30 years ago, high blood pressure was rare in rural China, and the prevalence of strokes and heart attacks was much lower than it is in the West. However, under China’s rapid urbanization, the prevalence of high blood pressure and heart disease have quickly risen. Today, heart disease is the leading cause of death in China. While the majority of China’s economic growth has occurred in the country’s urban centers, the countryside has been relatively neglected. Many of the risk factors for hypertension and cardiovascular disease, such as smoking and a high sodium diet, are just as common in rural areas as they are in urban areas. The China California Heart Watch works to document this growing epidemic by bringing international teams of researchers to conduct hypertension and cardiovascular disease surveys in Yunnan.
Training Village Doctors
The training and continued education of village doctors is a core part of the China California Heart Watch’s mission in Yunnan. Half of China’s population–a group approximately twice the size of the population of the United States–still lives in rural villages. Though the number of village doctors working in rural Yunnan is stable, they remain poorly trained in the care of chronic diseases like hypertension and heart disease. In addition, many are also unaware of how to screen children for congenital heart defects. The China California Heart Watch hosts semi-annual training seminars for village doctors to improve their ability to manage chronic conditions such as hypertension and to hone their pediatric examination skills. After attending one of our training programs, the village doctors return to their villages better equipped to serve their communities.