Programs in Eleven Countries Receive Grants as First LINKS Community Awards
March 21, 2019 (New York, NY) — The first LINKS grant awardees, who received a cumulative total of 1.25 million U.S. dollars, were announced today by Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. The World Health Organization Country Office for Sri Lanka is among the inaugural awardees. The funds will be used to provide policy and technical support to the Sri Lankan government for engaging with the food industry on salt reduction, and for the development of food standards that promote healthy eating. These activities support the implementation of the country’s National Salt Reduction Strategy.
“The government of Sri Lanka is well recognized for its effective implementation of tobacco
and alcohol control actions, and is now focusing on engaging the stakeholders in the food
industry to eliminate trans fat and reduce sodium intake,” said Dr. Nalika Gunawardena, National Professional Officer for NCDs in WHO’s Sri Lanka Country Office. “The receipt of the LINKS one-time grant is timely and fulfills the need to technically support the government to formulate the policies, regulations, standards and guidelines that are prerequisites to implement key salt reduction strategies.”
LINKS is an online community and resource-sharing platform that connects people working to improve cardiovascular health around the world. The program is funded by Resolve to Save Lives, and implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC Foundation and Resolve to Save Lives. LINKS members are eligible to apply for one-time grants to improve cardiovascular health in their communities.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Most of these deaths are preventable, and most occur in low- and middle-income countries,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives. “LINKS is building a community of champions working to promote cardiovascular health around the world by connecting leading experts with each other and providing one-time, catalytic grants.”
The grant funding will be divided among government and civil society organizations. It will advance cardiovascular health programs in Bhutan, Cameroon, Jamaica, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Uganda, and Vietnam. The grants were awarded to programs that focus on several approaches to improving heart health, from reducing the burden of high blood pressure to reducing salt intake or eliminating trans fat. Programs include integrating hypertension screening and treatment into routine HIV care in Uganda, developing and testing a low-sodium fish sauce in Vietnam, and studying the prevalence of trans fat in popular foods in Jamaica.
“A staggering one of every three deaths worldwide are linked to heart attack, stroke, and related conditions,” said Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the WHO Department for Noncommunicable Diseases. “Addressing this public health crisis by ensuring better prevention and treatment will improve the health and well-being of so many people. LINKS is a catalyst to rapidly address cardiovascular health in low- and middle-income countries, laying the groundwork to save countless lives.”
“It’s important for all of us to share knowledge, best practices and lessons learned by collectively working together to address cardiovascular disease challenges,” said Judith Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “In support of LINKS, the CDC Foundation is pleased to work with other partners to provide support to countries around the world seeking technical assistance aimed at improving heart health.”
LINKS is coordinated by Resolve to Save Lives, WHO, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the CDC Foundation. Membership is free and provides access to a roster of cardiovascular health experts from around the world, standardized tools for cardiovascular health and monthly webinars. The next webinar is on March 21 and focuses on global advocacy for the elimination of artificial trans fat.
These one-time grants recognize the reality that funding for prevention of cardiovascular disease will largely need to come from the countries themselves. Some actions, such as the elimination of artificial trans fat, can be implemented and then sustained with little or no investment of additional funding. Others, such as hypertension treatment, will require sustained funding for measures such as medications, but this will reduce health care costs that would otherwise be used to care for patients with avoidable heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure.
Applications for the next round of LINKS funding are open now through June 15, 2019. For more information, visit www.linkscommunity.org.
2019 LINKS Grant Recipients and Projects:
Bhutan: Department of Public Health at the Ministry of Health
Strengthen hypertension management in 29 health facilities by training health assistants in hypertension care; strengthen early detection, prevention and treatment; and improve stroke registry.
Cameroon: Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services
Standardize hypertension care and specialist services in five main health service facilities, develop electronic health management information system, and improve patient retention and care through clinic visits and community-based follow-up.
Jamaica: College of Health Sciences at the University of Technology
Assess the trans-fatty acid profile of spreadable fats, edible oils, cookie products, snacks, fast foods from transnational and local restaurants and bakeries across Jamaica to lay the groundwork for the development of national standards and policy in Jamaica.
Nigeria and Pakistan: Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
Promote the replacement of artificial trans fat by implementing the WHO REPLACE technical package in emerging markets in Pakistan and Nigeria, targeting businesses within the SUN Business Network.
Philippines: Interactive Research and Development
Enroll 20,000 patients in a sustainable program for hypertension control in Marikina City, Manila by engaging 100 private practitioners catering to low-income populations and establishing a model for the effective treatment of hypertension in the private sector.
Rwanda: Non-Communicable Diseases Division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre
Improve hypertension control in four high-burden districts in Rwanda by optimizing services at health facilities and community outreach. Efforts to include broadening the range of providers who can provide treatment and making health materials easy to understand for a population with limited literacy.
Sri Lanka: World Health Organization Country Office for Sri Lanka
Provide policy and technical support to the Sri Lankan government for engaging with the food industry to reduce salt content and develop food standards to promote healthy eating, in support of the implementation of the country’s National Salt Reduction Strategy.
Timor-Leste: Noncommunicable Diseases Department at the Ministry of Health
Improve hypertension treatment coverage and control rates through reforming care delivery at primary health care facilities in six municipalities using a simplified standardized hypertension protocol.
Uganda: Makerere University Joint AIDS Program
Integrate hypertension screening and treatment into routine HIV care among the 16,000+ patients receiving care at Mulago ISS, the largest HIV clinic in Uganda.
Vietnam: The George Institute for Global Health and The National Institute of Nutrition
Assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of introducing lower-sodium foods into the Vietnamese market by developing and testing reduced-sodium fish sauce.