I first got involved with Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), and got to know Alison Cox MBE, through a friend, Jeff Morland, who lost his son, Levon, to young sudden cardiac death.
Over the years, I have been closely involved with All Party Group on CRY, and have been very impressed by the things CRY has managed to achieve in a relatively short space of time. However, with 12 people under the age of 35 dying every week from a previously undiagnosed heart condition, most without any prior symptoms, CRY’s work remains as vital today as twenty years ago.
Too often, when heart disease has been discussed, the focus is solely on the risk to older people. CRY has worked hard to ensure that the risk of heart disease in young people is not overlooked.
CRY’s screening programme, under Professor Sanjay Sharma, tests over 23,000 young people every year, and 1 in every 300 of those tests uncovers a potentially life threatening condition. The charity has also long provided bereavement support to families tragically affected by sudden cardiac death, and continues to raise vital funds for research, such as the pioneering work of Professor Mary Sheppard and St George’s Medical school.
In Parliament, I saw the work they did on the Coroner’s bill, campaigning successfully, with others, for the creation of the post of Chief Coroner. CRY also worked to ensure that a chapter was included in the national framework on heart disease covering young sudden cardiac death.
It is important also, as we mark the charity’s twentieth anniversary to pay particular tribute to Alison Cox MBE, the Founder and Chief Executive of CRY, whose drive and determination has been central to its ongoing success.
At the recent CRY Parliamentary Reception, it was good to be able to reflect on the progress that has been made in this field over the last twenty years. However, we also had a timely reminder of how much work is still to be done, as CRY called for a review of the evidence behind the National Screening Committee’s decision not to recommend a cardiac screening programme for young people in the UK.
I look forward to seeing what CRY can achieve over the next twenty years, as it continues to lead the way in both raising awareness and working to prevent young sudden cardiac death.