2011 Award Winner Profile
by Juan Fuertes
Attendees and panelists at the ANHP seminar
The Tom Lantos Innovation in Community Service Award has been a turning point in the psychological care of pulmonary hypertension patients in Spain. We have always promoted the principle of considering the PH patient as a whole, not just as a faulty organ. After publishing the guide “Emotional Aspects of PH,” we saw the need to involve health officials in this holistic view of the disease. The Lantos Award has given us the opportunity to organize the first Seminar on Psychological Care for PH Patients, which reached out to psychologists and psychiatrists in Madrid.
On June 7, 2011, our organization brought together 12 psychologists and psychiatrists to discuss psycho-social needs in the field of PH, and this raised not only interest but real motivation and involvement on the part of the attendees. Irene Delgado, President of ANHP, says, “PH patients must get emotional support to face the fear of our prognosis, and we must have tools to reduce the challenges of this disease, which often impede access to jobs and make it hard to adjust to society. Psychological support is paramount for many patients in their struggle to make the most of their lives.”
PH patients are often placed at the bottom tier of the health system because of the small number of patients, and getting support from health officials has proved challenging. However, we found unexpected support through the Coordinator of the Regional Mental Health Office of Madrid, Dr. Gustavo Petersen, who contributed to the success of the seminar.
After the seminar, we received a request from one of the public hospitals to fund research on the impact of psychological therapy in reducing morbidity and mortality of PH. One group of patients will attend group therapy while others will see psychiatrists on an individual basis. Their progress will be compared with a control group, and we expect to see a measurable difference in favor of the patients with psychological support.
There is much more to do as we encourage physicians to diagnose the whole person whose quality of life is affected by the way they experience the disease, the limitations they face, the drugs they take and changes from one functional class to another. This first seminar on psychological care for PH patients, made possible by the Tom Lantos Innovation in Community Service Award, is a milestone in the evolution of PH care. As President Delgado says, “We have opened a door for new challenges: we are small and in dire need of funds, but we have hope and a strong will.”