Dr. Jose Pantaleon Hernandez-Rodriguez is a Spanish scientist who has been working for almost a year at the International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. His has an interest in cardiovascular diseases, and he would like to develop and implement health initiatives in this city, through his expertise in prevention programs. We have asked him how he can compare his pubic health experience in Western countries, with that of the Czech republic.
José, could you briefly describe your career so far?
I have worked for the National Health Service, in the UK, both as a Public Health information Officer and as well as in commissioning roles. Following my training, in Oxford School of Medical Sciences, I have worked as a project manager and in consultancy roles, in England. I am now based in Brno, and I would like to improve the health of communities through public health prevention programmes.
And what are you doing now?
My interests includes studying the awareness of cardiovascular risks, here in Brno. This is a interesting topic, while Western state-supported campaigns to improve prevention and healthy lifestyle have had measurable impacts, that of Central and Eastern Europe is not well-know. I often see here agressive advertising of alcoholic beverages and tobacco. I would like to improve this.
Is it real at all?
There are very real differences between cardiovascular mortality in western and eastern Europe. The Czech Republic has a higher mortality compared to neighboring Western countries. This is probably related to lifestyle, which can be theoretically modified not only by individual choice, but also aided by policies proposed towards reducing the consumption of alcohol and tobacco at state level, and by local politicians. Paradoxically, aggressive marketing campaigns of tobacco companies, coupled with historically a very high alcohol consumption, have made Eastern European countries an ideal place to implement effective and measurable public health campaigns.
Do you have any evidence this is the case here in Brno?
Yes, certainly, thanks to the Kardiovize Brno 2030 project. Since its start, in 2011, is the most comprehensive cardiovascular prevention program in Central and Eastern Europe. It has analyzed the health of the population of the city of Brno, as well as mapped cardiovascular risk factors in as much as one percent of its citizens, providing strength to our findings. Results showed a very high proportion of men (91%) and women (79%) reporting less than recommended fruit or vegetable intake, it also found that over a quarter of participants were smokers. This, together with other lifestyle factors may affect the rate of cardiovascular disease in Brno.
We are helping disseminate this information through scientific publications and conferences. Kardiovize Brno 2030 is aiming to a wider audience, so that programs looking at improving risk factors work not only in Brno, but throughout the country.
And are we able to contribute to the implementation of specific programs?
This is, of course, the BIG question, are we able to translate research into practice? I am optimistic. Experience from foreign settings provide evidence that raising awareness of risk factors such as cholesterol, high blood pressure or smoking can be effective at town, municipality level and beyond. Is a matter of addressing this issue outside the academic arena. Specific impacts such as reducing health care costs perhaps may be an argument strong enough to plan and implement an appropriate public health strategy.