About this Research Topic
The incidence of congenital heart defects is about 10/1000 living births across the world, without major differences among the various geographical areas. Attempts have been made to identify the true incidence of congenital heart defects, with studies reporting that in emerging economies the incidence of congenital heart defects is higher than the average because of several factors.These include genetics, higher prevalence of consanguineous marriages, poor nutrition, poor sanitation and significantly higher fertility rates.
Across the globe child mortality due to communicable diseases has considerably decreased, however death and disability in children with congenital heart defects has dramatically increased in the last two decades. It has been estimated that congenital malformations, of which congenital heart defects represents nearly 50%, are the 4th leading cause of neonatal mortality.
Since the care of patients with congenital heart defects is complex and requires significant resources, the main global issue remains the fact that the access to care is not equal for all. As a result, every year about 90% of over one million of children born with a congenital heart defect around the world do not have access to care or only receive sub-optimal care. These children are predominantly born in low income countries. To compound the problem further, there is a very large number of patients in the pediatric age group with acquired heart diseases, such as rheumatic disease, imposing a huge additional burden on these impoverished populations.
Although the incidence of rheumatic disease has fallen, there are still 233,000 new cases every year, with 2,000 deaths annually reported.
This tragic situation has stimulated the creation of many non-profit humanitarian organizations, trying to reduce the imbalance in health care existing for children with congenital heart defects and rheumatic disease across the globe. All these organizations rely on volunteer teams donating their time and expertise to provide diagnostic investigations and surgical treatment for congenital and acquired heart defects in the pediatric age.
The purpose of this Research Topic is to highlight this serious global child issue and attract the interest of the people with experience in humanitarian activities in the emerging economies, to share their experiences of working in such resource constrained environments, and the requirements for a successful partnership with the local existing organizations.
The success should not be measured by the number of successful operations of any given mission, but by the successful operations that our colleagues perform after we leave. Or in other words, success can only be measured when the local team decides that we are going to be of more benefit elsewhere.
Considering that the children in need outnumber the people able to provide care in this humanitarian effort, there should be plenty of room for cooperation rather than competition.
The main goal should be to provide teaching to local staff and implementing methods and techniques to support the improvement of the care of the patients in the long run ultimately building capacity.
This Research Topic focuses on the organization of pediatric cardiac activities in the emerging economies, although “the less medical advanced” parts of the world can be anywhere, not necessarily limited by economic constraints.
Raising the awareness and non-governmental organizations working in partnership with local organizations and governments will form the building blocks of a strategy towards creating capacity in the low income countries over the long term, so that in the future the diagnosis of congenital heart defects and rheumatic heart diseases will no longer be the death sentence for the majority of children in the world that it currently is.
Keywords: congenital heart defects, genetics, consanguineous marriages, poor nutrition, sanitation, congenital malformations, rheumatic disease, humanitarian
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