A CARDIO physiologist is swapping the Lugg Flats for the Cape Flats in a bid to help some of South Africa's poorest youngsters.

Gill James, who is based at Hereford County Hospital, is flying to Cape Town later this summer to join a voluntary team performing diagnostic cardiac ultrasounds on youngsters from four of the city's townships.

The aim of the team, which has been put together by the British Society of Echocardiography and the South African Government, is to reduce rheumatic heart disease among youngsters.

“Rheumatic heart disease is relatively easily detected by what is relatively older technology - echocardiography,” said the physiologist, who will be working during week two of the eight-week project.

“South Africa is the ideal sort of place to focus our efforts because although there is a very high level of social deprivation with high levels of rheumatic heart disease, there is also a well-established hospital infrastructure, which means children found to have the disease will receive excellent onward care.

“This disease is prevalent in very poor communities around the globe - it’s the kind of condition we might see in 60 year-old's over here in the UK, but in the South African townships, due to poor nutrition and living conditions, we’ll find it school-age children.

“I was out in South Africa last year and it’s difficult to believe the amount of deprivation which co-exists within a stone’s throw of such wealth."

During the eight weeks that the project will run, those behind it hope to screen around 2,000 youngsters from township schools.