Medtronic Foundation has featured Children’s HeartLink as one of its partners that uses successful practices to build the capacity of health care workers and strengthen health systems in countries with underserved populations.
Since 2003 we have been training in-country medical teams through a capacity-building approach, helping medical providers strengthen and reinforce their clinical skills and thereby their capacity to treat more children with heart disease in their own country. Children’s HeartLink also partners with local governments to strengthen their health care so that even more children have access to lifesaving treatment.
Our work was described in the Medtronic Foundation report highlighting best practices for addressing noncommunicable diseases among underserved populations. Noncommunicable diseases include pediatric heart disease. The report was first distributed prior the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly this spring.
“Medtronic Foundation’s partners reflected on the best practices that have led to their success in improving noncommunicable disease care and strengthening health systems,” the report says.
Prenatal and newborn screening
Medtronic Foundation has been a committed partner for many years. Its support from 2017-2019 has helped us train medical specialists in Kerala, a state in southern India. Pediatricians, OB-GYNs, radiologists and nurses were trained to implement prenatal and newborn screening (including pulse oximetry testing for newborns) for early diagnosis of heart defects. As a result, over 85,000 children were screened, and several hundred were treated after a heart defect was detected.
The Newborn Foundation is our partner in the implementation of newborn screening, while Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and the Government of Kerala are our partners to support clinician trainings and program coordination, respectively.
“Children’s HeartLink expands access to care for pediatric congenital heart disease (CHD) by strengthening screening and referral systems and enhancing surgical capacity for CHD in Kerala, India,” according to the report.
Continued partnership with Medtronic Foundation in 2019-2021 will also support our work in Kerala.
One of two focuses of this work is training for community health workers. “They usually work in the small towns and villages and are closest to the families when they return home after their children have been discharged from the hospital. It’s critical to train these community nurses because their training will help significantly improve children’s post-surgery care and follow-up,” says Children’s HeartLink Vice President of Programs and Evaluation Anne Betzner.
The other goal is developing and testing optimal screening protocols that make it possible to perform a physical exam of newborns, along with pulse oximetry screening. This is the best practice for identifying congenital heart disease. However, workforce shortages and the high volume of births in India often don’t allow for oximetry screening and clinical assessment. Children’s HeartLink collaborates with the state government to roll out an expanded newborn screening protocol to all public delivery hospitals in the state.
Read more about our work in India here.