Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
Deborah Chen, executive director of The Heart Foundation of Jamaica, is the new president of the InterAmerican Heart Foundation (IAHF), an intercontinental organisation whose mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke in the Americas.
Chen was made president at the IAHF's general assembly in November during the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012. She also served as secretary and prior to assuming the post of president, was vice-president of the World Heart Federation for two years. Chen explained that having served in the vice-presidency position based on the board she automatically became president. Following her sojourn she will also assume the role of immediate past president for another two years.
Chen is the first Jamaican on the board, however, she isn't the first Caribbean national as Professor Trevor Hassell from Barbados also served as in that role. "The IAHF is the regional body that serves North, South, Central America and the Caribbean. It could be classified as the umbrella group and lobby's for the interest of everybody in the region in relation to cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading cause of deaths today," Chen said.
"Cardiovascular disease also remains the leading cause of mortality in Jamaica, and the programmes and services are focused on reducing this problem," Chen added.
Board meetings that are held twice per year, other meetings, including the regional tobacco conference and others, will be added to Chen's agenda. The IAHF is involved in a number of programmes, including campaigns for women and heart disease, tobacco control in Central America and dietary salt reduction, and Chen said the foundation plans to continue with its projects under her regime.
"We will continue to work with member states in relation to controlling cardiovascular disease in their countries. I will also work with the board and the executive director to facilitate funding proposals for the different countries. We communicate regularly and offer assistance. It doesn't always mean monetary contributions but also networking and updating information," Chen said.
Chen said her substantive role at The Heart Foundation of Jamaica would not be greatly impacted by her new position. "It is an interesting role, but it just means a lot of work for me. However, I am enthusiastic about working in a multicultural environment and have already put measures in place to deal with matters that may arise," she said.
Chen has worked extensively in the field of cardiovascular disease throughout her years at The Heart Foundation of Jamaica and has sat on several international committees. Her affiliations with international bodies also include: chairman of the IAHF Emergency Cardiac Care Committee; board member on The National Resuscitation Council of Jamaica and project director for the Caribbean Tobacco Control Project, a member of the National Tobacco Control Committee and a member of the Lions Club of Kingston.
She is a past student of the Holy Childhood High School in St Andrew and a registered nurse, who has completed a post-registration course in the intensive care of heart patients. She holds a master of public health degree from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and is currently pursuing doctoral studies in public health at the UWI.
"What I have achieved, it is a testament to the work of The Heart Foundation of Jamaica. I look forward to the foundation's continued growth and contribution to addressing cardiovascular disease in Jamaica, and the influence we have made globally," Chen said.
The InterAmerican Heart Foundation was formed in 1992 with the primary goals of promoting an environment throughout the Americas that is conducive to the prevention of heart disease and stroke and to foster partnerships between health professionals, business, industry and other sectors of society for the accomplishment of its mission and goals.
Chen will serve as president of the IAHF until 2014. The Heart Foundation of Jamaica was founded by the Lions Club of Kingston in 1971 and is a registered, non-profit organisation and is supported by voluntary contributions, its own fund-raising and subsidised user fees.