Our Partners Help to Reduce Infant Deaths in Kerala, India

Photo by Scott Streble

The infant mortality rate in the state of Kerala in southwest India, has been reduced from 10 deaths to 7 deaths per 1,000 live births.*

“We strongly believe that the work the state has been doing to address infant mortality from congenital heart disease, one of the leading causes of infant death, has contributed to bringing down Kerala’s infant mortality rate,” says Children’s HeartLink Vice President of Global Strategy and Advocacy Bistra Zheleva. 

In 2018, the Government of Kerala developed the Hridyam project, a unique online registration system to manage the detection and referral of patients with congenital heart disease. To our knowledge, it’s the first system of its kind in a low- or middle-income country.

“With Hridyam project, we brought all slots for heart surgeries into one pool, which means that all slots of the 10 to 12 heart surgeries performed in a day would be open if there is a case from Hridyam; they would get first priority,” says Dr. Sreehari, state nodal officer for child health, in The NEWS Minutes article.

Dr. Sreehari is one of the Children’s HeartLink’s local government partners. In partnership with the Government of Kerala since 2016, we are working to improve access to care for children with congenital heart diseaseThis partnership has improved the system for prenatal, newborn and childhood screening of congenital heart disease through training and awareness-building among primary care providers.

“We want to congratulate the Government of Kerala on their incredible achievement in reducing the infant mortality rate in the last two years,” says Zheleva. “We support the development of the Congenital Heart Disease Patient Care Continuum in the state that seeks to influence the barriers impeding access to health care for children with heart disease. The Kerala Department of Health has invested in the development of a screening and referral system and will be supporting the development of more surgical centers.” 

One of the hospitals in Kerala that performs pediatric heart surgery is the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Kochi. AIMS became a Children’s HeartLink partner in 2000. In 2012, it become our first Center of Excellence in care and training. AIMS is a key training collaborator in Children’s HeartLink’s efforts with the Government of Kerala to increase access and improve pediatric cardiac care.

“A key partner in this effort has been AIMS. Their pediatric cardiac team has provided their skills and expertise to train many primary and secondary care providers to assure children with heart disease get referred on time for care,” says Zheleva. 

*This rate is one digit less than the number in the goals set forth by the United Nations for 2020 (8 per 1,000 live births). The national infant mortality rate in India is 32 deaths per 1,000 live births.

 

Read our story about how the collaboration between two of our partner hospitals in India, AIMS in Kochi and GKNM in Coimbatore, saved the life of a child with heart disease during the national lockdown.