WFH Africa Summit a life-changing experience for Hemophilia Alliance Travel Grant Recipients

Hemophilia Alliance Travel Grant recipients Dong Chen and Rebecca Schaffer could only express gratitude and a deep resolve to continue working with the bleeding disorders community after attending the WFH Africa Summit 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Both noted the summit provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness physicians, patients, government officials, and patient organization leaders coming together to find ways to improve access to care.

Chen and Schaffer both said that the experience of attending the summit was life-changing. Schaffer made a special effort to create a network of global colleagues: much like in the United States, she found oral health is an oft-forgotten component of comprehensive healthcare. She is keen to see how her new colleagues overcome these same challenges and find ways to ensure that the benefits of good oral care are well understood.

Rebecca Schaffer
“I came away with a very realistic picture of the resource-challenges, cultural attitudes, and political issues amongst the multitude of barriers to comprehensive care.”

Chen and Schaffer also noted the tremendous gaps in care that exist in Africa, some due to a lack of funding, and others due to lack of specialized education. While the overall situation is much better in the U.S.A, education and funding issues exist there too, so it was valuable for Chen and Schaffer to see innovative solutions brought to light in a resource-challenged environment. For Chen, the lack of access to coagulation testing instruments constitutes a pressing and real barrier to improving the diagnosis rate in Africa, which is 10% of the expected number, compared to close to 80% in Europe. Without access to these instruments and testing reagents, his colleagues in Africa are basing their diagnoses on clinical assessment and family history collection. Schaffer noted that far too many in attendance saw oral health concerns as a luxury to be dealt with “somewhere down the line”. She notes that people with periodontal disease demonstrate the presence of bacteria in distant joints—including the knees and shoulders—leading to chronic inflammation, a dangerous condition for those living with a bleeding disorder.

Chen and Schaffer thank The Hemophilia Alliance for the opportunity to attend the WFH Africa Summit 2019. The Hemophilia Alliance Travel Fund allows U.S.A.-based WFH multi-committee members to attend WFH international meetings and conferences. The World Federation of Hemophilia USA proudly acknowledges The Hemophilia Alliance’s generosity and commitment to advancing the knowledge of U.S.A.-based healthcare professionals in the bleeding disorders community. To learn more about the important work the Hemophilia Alliance is doing, click here.