Toronto — On Valentine’s Day 2009, medical student Vanessa Rambihar appeared on CBC Radio 1 to invite everyone to become part of Global Heart Hour and to continue this thinking throughout the year. She suggests we can start with the heart and do something more for the heart of the world on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.
"Just as we turn our lights off for Earth Hour and climate change, we can turn our hearts on for heart, global heart and do more for others. As we celebrate Earth Hour later this month, we should also think heart and global heart."
Global Heart Hour is a new concept launched at The Scarborough Hospital and by medical students at the University of Toronto, to start and sustain a global heart movement and network to make a better world. This also responds specifically to the various crises we now face, including global financial, food and climate change, which are expected to make existing global disparities even greater. The students suggest that we put our hearts and minds together to start a global public engagement to find novel ideas and actions for change, using the new communication tools and new ways for change that their generation has adopted. The launch was very successful, which Vanessa credits to the tremendous support and work of the medical students who helped her organize this event, faculty, student council, Center for International Health, and the Office of Student Affairs which made it possible. Over a hundred students and many others participated in the launch, excited by the opportunity to make a difference in the world in this novel way.
Vanessa Rambihar has been involved in community activities for a long time. She is enrolled in the first year of medical school at U of T and graduated from the UWO with a degree in Medical and Health Science. She has been part of community heart health promotion for many years and was involved with skits for heart health and writing health promotion articles at Indian Heritage Day celebrations and other events.
The launch featured opening remarks by Dr Catharine Whiteside, Dean of U of T’s Faculty of Medicine, followed by a panel discussion with distinguished physician leaders, Dr Peter Liu, CIHR Scientific Director and Professor of Medicine, Dr Anne Dipchand, Pediatric Cardiologist and Head of the Heart Transplant Program, Hospital for Sick Children, Dr Shafiq Qaadri, Government Member of Ontario Parliament, family physician and medical writer, and Dr Jennifer Kane, who has traveled extensively and is starting a year of Global Health Fellowship at U of T. Moderating the brainstorming session was Brodie Ramin, fourth year medical student who grew up in the developing world and obtained a Masters degree in International Development at Cambridge University.
The panelists reported on the increasing need for health awareness and action, especially with the crises we now face and the concern that health will decline as a result. They described small actions for us to help change this and described ways that we could be involved in right here to make a difference in the world.
The reciprocal relationship of heart health and poverty was noted and the opportunity to improve heart health to reduce poverty. Dr Qaadri described how policy change improves health and what the government is doing to ensure health for all during these crises. He also brought greetings from Premier Dalton McGuinty that recognized Valentine’s as an ideal time to mark this initiative “reminding us of the importance of good heart health” which “inspires us to envisage ways in which to make the world a better place.”
Global Heart Hour is designed as a grass-roots, people-driven, idea-powered collaboration that builds on twenty-five years of a Valentine's Day for Heart Health, and four years of a Global Heart project. Ideas for the Hour that have already become actions are: a Valentine’s party with fewer gifts and chocolates with more donations to a charity of choice, sharing ideas, poetry and more on Facebook and YouTube, and promoting heart health, which is now advocated for social and economic development and poverty reduction. Everyone is invited to use their imagination and creativity to design their own event or action plan, or use ideas others have already come up with.
For more information and ideas please visit www.globalhearthour.com