Images of zebras and their stripes have been cropping up more frequently among professionals who treat pulmonary hypertension (PH). They've appeared in this and other issues of Advances, for instance, and on buttons given out at medical meetings. Expect the zebra to proliferate in diverse primary and specialty care circles, as well, as PHA carries out its new zebra-themed Sometimes it's PH campaign for early diagnosis in the US and global health communities.
Physicians on PHA's Board of Trustees suggested the zebra emblem to reverse the lesson young diagnosticians receive in training: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras.” The campaign's central message is: “Sometimes dyspnea, chest pain, and other widespread symptoms may lead you to conclude it's asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, or lack of fitness. But sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's PH.”
Sometimes it's PH responds to a call to action from a November 2011 white paper, Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension: Recommendations for Improving Patient Outcomes, written under PHA's leadership by a group of PH experts from around the globe. Data cited included a finding from the REVEAL Registry that the mean duration between symptom onset and confirmed diagnosis by right heart catheterization is 2.8 years and has scarcely improved in more than 2 decades. The paper concluded that delays in diagnosis of PH and referral to specialized care are now the main barriers to better patient outcomes. Optimal care, noted in the paper, is collaboration between primary and specialty care providers.
PHA's 5-year campaign will teach health care professionals to consider a PH diagnosis when symptoms warrant and to team up earlier with specialized PH physicians who can confirm diagnosis and offer a wider range of treatment, clinical trials, and patient support networks. The campaign will educate medical professionals by publishing articles in professional journals, placing news stories, developing new forums for educating about early diagnosis and referral, exhibiting and speaking at medical and allied health meetings, and joining with key professional and advocacy organizations on education and communication initiatives that reach their members.
At this early stage, the campaign's activities have included the creation of a Web site devoted to the campaign, www.SometimesItsPH.org, the release of a 60-second video spot accessible through that site, and outreach to health care media. We have formed leadership committees composed of PH physicians and allied health professionals. Each committee will guide activities in 1 of the 3 campaign approaches: educating, communicating with health professionals, and forming collaborative relationships with key professional associations.
This column will appear in future issues of Advances to provide updates on Sometimes it's PH. Keep an eye on this bold and important new PHA initiative.