Councillors have backed a campaign calling for a national strategy to be created to help prevent sudden cardiac deaths among young people.
A motion unanimously approved by Caerphilly County Borough Council on Tuesday, November 19 calls on the Welsh Government to support the campaign led by charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).
It also says the Welsh Government should look at the possibility of providing a free heart screening programme for young people, starting with those taking part in competitive sport.
Labour councillor Carl Cuss, presenting the motion, said raising awareness of the issue is “vitally important”, with 12 apparently fit and healthy young people in the UK dying from an undiagnosed heart defect every week.
Last year, talented footballer Jake Pickford, from Rhymney, died at the age of 16 from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS).
“The devastation to his parents, brother and sister, family, friends and the whole community was immeasurable and unfortunately this is not the only incidence in our county borough,” Cllr Cuss said.
A football club, the Pickford Stars has been set up in Jake’s honour and around £9,000 has been raised for heart screening programmes.
Several fundraising events have also raised money to buy new defibrillators in the Rhymney area, the meeting heard.
Cllr Cuss said in some cases the underlying condition can be cured after cardiac screening, saving lives.
A national strategy is also needed to correctly record the amount of deaths from such conditions, Cllr Cuss said.
The UK government’s National Screening Committee has not recommended screening though, with concerns over ‘uncertainties’ with the test.
It says the chances of sudden heart attacks in apparently physically fit young people are ‘tiny’, with the majority relating to elderly people.
Plaid Cymru councillor and Parliamentary candidate for Caerphilly, Lindsay Whittle, gave his support and also asked if screening could be provided for all children, not just those involved in sport – something party colleague Cllr Colin Mann also backed.
In response, Cllr Cuss said research has linked the particular condition, SADS, to sporting activity though.
The meeting heard heart charity, Welsh Hearts, recently submitted a petition to Welsh Government titled ‘Let’s Get Every Young Heart Screened’ which asks them to roll out a heart screening programme for all young people aged 10-35 in Wales.
The council’s motion calls on the Welsh Government to support the setting up of a national strategy, and also urges MPs to support the campaign led by CRY.