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Every week 12 people under 35 die as a result of undiagnosed heart disease

The scene of John Marshall, a healthy 16-year-old soccer player, collapsing onto the grass in 1995 just one day before he was due to be signed by a topflight team shocked the whole of society. 

Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) was thrust into the spotlight and became a voice for many families in the UK, raising awareness among society as to the importance of sudden death from heart disease. Around 600 people under 35 years of age are affected by heart disease every year in the UK, or approximately 12 a week.

“For the past 20 years, raising awareness of genetic illnesses that affect seemingly fit and healthy young people has been and remains my number one objective”. So said Alison Cox, founder and CEO of this benchmark charity in Europe, at the PREMIOS SOCIALES 2014 award ceremony held in Madrid earlier today. Fundación MAPFRE awards this prize each year in order to acknowledge people or institutions that have made significant contributions for the benefit of society as a whole in the scientific, cultural and social arenas.

Her Majesty Queen Sofía presented Alison Cox with the “Award for the Best Health Promotion Initiative”, which includes a prize of 30,000 euros, in recognition of the major contributions made by this institution, whose key mission is to identify young people with latent heart problems, support such people by taking care of their medical, social, psychological and mourning needs, and to promote medical research into illnesses that can lead to sudden death.

In her acceptance speech, Alison Cox, a mother whose 18-year-old son was diagnosed with a dangerous heart condition, stressed the importance of proactive examination, taking place before any symptoms appear, as “the only way to save lives, since most young people who die suddenly have the disease without knowing it. Sudden death is the first symptom”.

In this regard, she highlighted the success of their examination program, the UK’s first screening among young people for diseases that lead to death from heart problems and one of the few that exist worldwide for detecting heart anomalies among 14-35 year olds.

More than 70,000 people have benefitted from this innovative program over the last 20 years, identifying more than 200 people with potentially fatal heart problems and providing vital research, acknowledged around the world, that improves diagnosis and saves many young lives.

CRY, funded exclusively by private donations, also has units that travel around the country conducting preventive examinations on any interested youngsters and has created a cardiac pathology center where exhaustive analyses are performed to determine life-threatening anomalies. Having such precise data is vital for examining immediate family members and discovering whether any of them have the same condition. The center has reduced diagnosis waiting time from two years to two weeks.

“I am very proud to be here today” said Alison Cox , “and to receive this award on behalf of CRY and, particularly, on behalf of all the families that have lost a loved one and whose support has been invaluable. This award reflects not only

the work carried out by our team and the key researchers and doctors who work with us, but also the hundreds of families who have been involved with CRY and who work hard to raise funds and raise awareness regarding sudden cardiac death among the young”.

The award ceremony, held in Madrid, was also attended by Susana Camarero, Secretary of State for Social Services and Equality, and Antonio Huertas, President of FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE. The event was also attended by leading figures from the social, cultural, political and business world. 

For more information: www.salaprensa.fundacionmapfre.org 

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