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Tibetan refugees’ heart: CardioLab in Dharamsala

December 27, 2007

Phayul
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

On March 2007, Dr. Tsetan Derji Sadutshang, director of Tibetan Delek
Hospital in Dharamsala, the Indian town where Tibetan refugees coming
from Tibet live, sent a letter to CardioLab Project’s organizers in
order to have a screening for the evaluation of cardio-cerebrovascular
risk performed in his hospital.

The reason: cardiovascular diseases incidence is increasing also in the
Tibetan population (even if specific epidemiologic data are missing),
especially because of the alteration of life habits. An initiative like
CardioLab, whose function is also educational, could perfectly answer to
Indian local needs.

Bayer, CardioLab sponsor in Italy, accepted this proposal with
enthusiasm. A group of general practitioners from Rimini, coordinated by
Dr. Claudio Cardelli, vice president of Associazione Italia Tibet, were
invited to participate, as volunteers. They were the first ones involved
in the CardioLab Project in Italy, and had a great experience in the
management of road ambulatories. Among them, Dr. Geo Agostini, President
of the “Ordine dei Medici” of Rimini, sentenced: “Our town has an old
tradition into the co-operation with Dharamsala and in particular with
Delek Hospital: in fact, Dalai Lama is honourable citizen of Rimini and
from here two ambulances have been delivered to Dharamsala thanks to
local institutions and charity associations”.

During the CardioLab Dharamsala experience, almost 800 people underwent
medical examinations: 86% were common people, 14% Buddhist monks. 36%
were young people (less than 35-year old) and half of the total was
women. Even if this sounds like a favourable profile (globally, monks,
young people and women have a low cardiovascular risk profile) 34% of
them reported at least one past cardiovascular episode, even if the
proportion of diabetics is very low.

Among risk factors, such as overweight, hypertension, smoke and stress,
the two main concerns are stress (probably due to refugees living
conditions) and overweight, which affects one over three patients.

In general, if we consider the young age of the people who underwent
medical examinations, the amount of hypertensive patients is higher than
expected. It’s been supposed a genetic factor could be involved.

So, Dr. Tsetan Derji Sadutshang asked to repeat CardioLab experience in
the lower side of Dharamsala, where Indian population lives. These
people are genetically different from those who live in the high side of
Dharamsala, who are Tibetan refugees and arrived here after crossing
Himalaya Mountain taking a hard 30 days travel.

“This has been a really special professional experience for the general
practitioners who went to India. The relation with a population that is
charming but needy of a qualified health assistance, in particular in
cardiology, touched everyone” Dr. Agostini explains, “Through the
CardioLab Project a bond with Italy has been established and now this
collaboration must be kept on.

Among future initiatives, also thanks to the partnership with the Rimini
local section of the Italy-Tibet Association, a telemedicine project
exists: U.O. Infermi Hospital in Rimini, run by Dr. G. Piovaccari, will
analyse and report the electrocardiograms performed at Delek Hospital,
since in the entire Indian region of Dharamsala a lack of cardiologists
exists.

Contributed by Associazione Italia Tibet , Milano Italy
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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