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Although Edwards Lifesciences has long considered philanthropy to be an important part of its company philosophy, several years ago the company began to consider taking a more proactive stance in its giving. “We began to think about how we can bring the time and the talent of our employees, and our connections to having a meaningful impact on an issue, and positively influence and inspire others to join us,” said Amanda C. Fowler, executive director, global corporate giving, Edwards Lifesciences and Edwards Lifesciences Foundation, in an interview with MD+DI. Her team and the foundation board searched for a cause where they could also donate the company’s medical technology.
“We quickly decided that helping underserved heart valve patients seems like a very personal and important place for us to spend our time, talent, and influence,” she said. “So in 2014 we set out to impact the global burden of heart valve disease, supporting education, screening, and treatment of 1 million underserved people.”
The result was the Every Heartbeat Matters Initiative, which is supported by grants from Edwards Lifesciences Foundation, donations of Edwards heart valve technologies (although other products and technologies may also be used in treating patients), volunteer support, and the dedicated work of 60 nonprofit partners.
“We have had an amazing response from the clinical community and the nonprofit organizations,” said Fowler, “and all around the world we had hundreds of people raising their hands wanting to be part of this.” She explained that the foundation brings its partners together at annual summits and quarterly calls to connect with one another to share resources and learning. “We're building a community of people that think together, work together, and inspire each other, and the best part is that it is working,” Fowler said. The initiative exceeded its goal in the middle of last year when it crossed over the 1 million mark, and it is on the path to reach more than 1.5 million underserved people by 2020.
So far, Every Heartbeat Matters has reached underserved people in more than 40 countries. Approximately 1.2 million underserved people have been impacted by public health education, and more than 24,000 clinicians have received education to elevate care for those patients. More than 110,000 underserved people have been screened for heart valve disease, and approximately 6 percent of that population were diagnosed and referred for charitable care. Most significantly, almost 7,000 underserved people received life-saving heart valve treatment.
“It is that smallest number that is the absolute pinnacle of Every Heartbeat Matters,” said Fowler. “None of those people would have access to this care without these partners.”
For example, Fowler recalled the story of one young patient in Haiti who, because of untreated strep throat, contracted heart valve disease. Life-saving surgery would previously have been unheard of but for the initiative, which provided the necessary care in nearby Dominican Republic through collaboration with two Every Heartbeat Matters partners.
Fowler also explained that even in first-world countries, patients suffer in their recovery from heart-valve treatment because they don’t have a strong support system. “We’re finding that peer-to-peer support with a patient who has been in the same situation as them can help them recover and have better outcomes,” said Fowler. “And we invest a lot in mobilizing patients to connect them with other patients to help them in their journey.”
Edwards Lifesciences Foundation accepts requests for funding from nonprofit organizations to partner on programs for its Every Heartbeat Matters Initiative through its annual grant cycle. Learn more at EveryHeartbeatMatters.com.