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Reaching Children with Congenital Heart Disease in Bangladesh

Published on December 9, 2022
Bangladesh has become the sixth country where Children’s HeartLink is partnering with local hospitals to improve access to high quality heart care for children with congenital heart disease.

Children’s HeartLink, a global nonprofit organization, is partnering with the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute to provide support furthering a high-quality, team-based approach to serving children with heart disease and their families. Through Children’s HeartLink, the hospital will be partnered with a medical volunteer team from Leeds Children’s Hospital in the U.K.

Heart Care in Bangladesh

National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute (NHF), part of the National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, is located in Dhaka, the country’s capital. They provide specialized care to approximately 2,000 children on an annual basis. In 2021, the pediatric cardiac unit performed over 700 surgeries.

“With the generosity of longtime Children’s HeartLink supporter Omar Ishrak and his family, we’re able to welcome National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute as our new partner hospital.” Children’s HeartLink President Jackie Boucher continued with, “We believe National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute is well positioned to continue to grow their pediatric cardiac care program to become a Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence. Through a multiyear training and mentoring partnership, we will support the hospital in developing their pediatric cardiac program to treat and improve the lives of more children with congenital heart disease.”

The country is one of the most densely populated in the world with a population of over 166 million people. And, heart disease is the second cause of infant deaths in Bangladesh. As for the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute, they are the national referral center for all children with high complexity congenital heart disease. National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute provides specialized care to approximately 2,000 children yearly.

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Developing the Pediatric Cardiac Care Program

The Children’s HeartLink partnership will support the NHF team in developing their organizational capacity, multidisciplinary skills, clinical skills and more to better serve children.

“I am a firm believer in Children’s HeartLink’s mission and a strong supporter of their approach,” said Omar Ishrak, former chairman and CEO of Medtronic and funder of Children’s HeartLink’s work in Bangladesh. “I wanted to help bring this impactful program to Bangladesh. Not only is it my country of origin, but it has a number of hospitals with basic pediatric cardiac care capabilities that could benefit greatly from the partnership with Children’s HeartLink.”

First training visit at NHF
In December 2022, Children’s HeartLink held the first training visit between Leed’s Children’s Hospital medical volunteers and National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Through Children’s HeartLink, the hospital team is partnered with a medical volunteer team from Leeds Children’s Hospital, one of the UK’s largest specialist children’s hospitals. Together, the two teams will work to improve care and outcomes for children born with heart disease.

Hands on Training at NHF in Bangladesh
During the first training visit in December 2022, health care workers gathered around for hands on training.

“Pediatric cardiac care is a small specialty which looks after children born with congenital heart disease. Children are often the last to get care in low resourced environments. They’re so vulnerable. They’re children who don’t get the care that we would get in western countries,” said Osama Jaber, MD, head of congenital cardiac surgery at Leeds Children’s Hospital, and Children’s HeartLink medical volunteer. “The Leeds team is looking forward to working with the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute team to see how we can support them in diagnosing and treating these children earlier for the best possible outcome.”

Growing into a Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence

One of the goals is for the hospital to become a Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence. Earning the center of excellence status means the hospital provides high-quality, complex care, and can serve as a regional trainer for other pediatric cardiac specialists.

Children’s HeartLink has an aspirational goal to reach one million more children in underserved regions by 2030. The new partnership with the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute will result in more children born with heart disease receiving the heart care they need and deserve to survive and thrive.

About Congenital Heart Disease

One out of 100 babies is born with congenital heart disease worldwide. Congenital heart disease is due to an abnormality in the structure of the heart. A child born in an area with access to pediatric heart care will likely survive and go on to live a healthy and active life. Sadly, for 9 in 10 of these children, they lack access to high quality care because it is not available or too expensive. Children’s HeartLink is working to change that by training in-country pediatric heart teams to treat children in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam.

About Children’s HeartLink
Children’s HeartLink saves children’s lives by transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world. The global nonprofit organization (NGO), partners medical volunteers from top teaching and research institutions with doctors, nurses and health care professionals in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam to develop or improve pediatric cardiac care programs. Since 1969, the organization has reached more than 1.5 million children.
About National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh
National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, a non-profit, was founded in 1978 by National Professor Brig. (Rtd.) Abdul Malik with the goals of cardiovascular health promotion, education, research and provision of clinical care. National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute is the prime project of the foundation with 480 beds.

About Leeds Children’s Hospital

Leeds Children’s Hospital is one of the UK’s largest specialist children’s hospitals offering a wide range of treatment and care for children from birth to young adulthood and beyond. The Congenital Heart Unit at Leeds Children’s Hospital identifies, diagnoses and treats congenital heart disease, arrhythmias and acquired heart disease. The Congenital Heart Unit is supported by Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.