Feature | A Call to Action: Increasing Global Access to Pediatric Cardiac Care

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Ninety percent of the one million children born with congenital heart disease (CHD) each year lack access to the care they need. Far too many of them are dying preventable deaths. I urge you to join me by raising your voice, and use your expertise and influence, on behalf of these children and their families.

Children's HeartLink, an international development organization based in Minneapolis, recently released a call to action to draw attention to this urgent and important issue. A Voice for The Invisible Child: Childhood Heart Disease and the Global Health Agenda calls on all of us to use our influence and networks to urge investments in:

  • Increasing capacity to care for children: Children with heart disease deserve care from robust health systems.
  • Building a pediatric cardiac workforce: We must equip providers to treat children with heart disease.
  • Closing the data gap: Care for children with heart disease will improve when their disease is counted.
  • Financing pediatric cardiac care: Poverty should never be a side effect of treating pediatric heart disease.

For two decades I've been volunteering with Children's HeartLink, primarily in Brazil and China. Children's HeartLink supports multi-year partnerships between leading teaching hospitals like Mayo Clinic and partner hospitals in developing countries. I've seen first-hand the sustained progress that's possible with targeted and strategic investments in surgical skills, critical care nursing training programs, and monitoring and quality improvement systems.

After the local leaders from these programs advance their skills and programs, they join the ranks of medical volunteers, training and mentoring more specialists throughout the region. This sustainable approach is our best hope for making significant and meaningful progress toward increasing access to care.

As Former Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development J. Brian Atwood urges in the new report: "Pediatric cardiac care is not luxury treatment. It is lifesaving care deserved by all children in need. Increasing access to pediatric cardiac care is a lofty but not insurmountable goal. It is an achievable goal, grounded in health system sustainability and equity. It will save children's lives."

Children with heart disease are already born with barriers to health. They should not also face barriers to care.

We invite you, as members of the ACC, to become involved in this timely and important cause. How can you help?

This post was authored by Joseph A. Dearani, MD, FACC, cardiac surgery chair at Mayo Clinic, and medical director, Children's HeartLink Board of Directors.