Leveraging School Health Programs in Africa: Integrated Screening for Rheumatic Heart Disease and Dental Caries

Euridsse Sulemane Amade, Edna Luchucha, Zakir Ossman, Keila Jamal, Adjine Mastala, Lene Thorup, Carlos José Soares, Rolan Aka N’gueta, Ana Mocumbi

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Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and dental caries (DC) disproportionately affect children and young adults in sub-Saharan countries, with major impact on schoolchildren’s health and education. DC in children with RHD constitutes an important risk for fatal complications. Our study aimed at assessing the feasibility of simultaneous RHD and DC screening in school environment.

March 20–24, 2022, we performed an observational descriptive study of schoolchildren in a public school in Maputo City, Mozambique. A total of 954 students (median age 9; range 6–15) were screened. One hundred and twenty-five participants were eligible for a rapid antigen test, of which 6 (4.8%) tested positive. On clinical evaluation 52 children (5.3%) presented a heart murmur. Echocardiography on 362 children showed borderline RHD in 35 children and definite RHD in 2 (0.6%); 1 child had a ventricular septal defect. Dental cavities were present in 444 (48.4%), despite 904 out of 917 students reporting brushing of their teeth once to three times daily (98.6%).

School-based integrated oral and cardiovascular screenings and use of rapid tests for GAS carriage provide crucial information to create customized preventive strategies for rheumatic fever (RF) and RHD in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), in addition to detecting children at very high risk of bacterial endocarditis. The sustainability of such interventions and acceptability by health providers needs to be assessed.