World Health Day: My Health My Right - Blog



World Health Day: My Health My Right

April 5, 2024 | Contributed by Preeti Kumar

Access to good health is a basic right for any individual. Everyone should be able to lead a healthy life and where needed access medical treatment, regardless of their age, income and place of living.

This however is not the case for many people across the world. A large percentage of  adults and children struggle to access health care facilities even for conditions that are a threat to life. Heart disease in children is one such area. Congenital heart defects are one of the leading birth defects. In India 200,000+ children are diagnosed with this every year- there would be many more who remain undiagnosed. Lack of awareness is one big reason for children not being diagnosed or diagnosed late. Only 25% children diagnosed with a CHD can access treatment- the rest suffer in silence and in some critical cases die.

According to the World Health Organisation, every human being has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. However, the harsh reality is that many children especially those living in the underserved parts of the country do not have access to specialised medical care.

Challenges in Accessing Pediatric Medical Care

Lack of awareness: Despite being one of the most common birth defects, awareness about CHD is limited among front line health workers and the general masses. As a result, very often the disease is not diagnosed on time or gets diagnosed late. In many cases co-morbidities develop impacting the outcome for the child.

Lack of pediatric cardiac care facilities: Pediatric cardiac care facilities are very limited in India. The ones that exist are not evenly distributed leaving many parts without any access to specialised medical care. Most of the centers are located in Tier I and Tier II cities and that too in the private sector leaving a large section of the population deprived of access to medical care.

Financial constraints: Most of the pediatric cardiac centers are located in the private sector where the cost of treatment is high. Government facilities exist but these are stretched to capacity owing to the demand of the treatment. There are a few NGOs like ours that support the financial cost of treating these children from a CHD. Corporate donations to charity and donations from individuals help us support the treatment of these children.

Lack of sufficient capacity in the public health system: The cardiac centers in the public sector lack the capacity to deal with the large number of cases that come each year. Given the high number of cases, public health centers are stretched and overburdened.

Delayed Diagnosis: with advances in medicine, most children born with a congenital heart defect can live near normal lives, timely diagnosis and treatment being key. However, in many cases, the diagnosis of a CHD gets delayed. In critical cases this leads to suboptimal outcomes. While institutional births have increased many births continue to take place at home where babies born with a heart defect will not get picked up. Even in the case of institutional deliveries, in the case of normal birth, the babies are usually discharged after 24 hours leading to many children not diagnosed. Pre discharge pulse oximetry screening is not followed in most places yet in India. Very often children get diagnosed late meaning that other morbidities have set in. In some cases, the children become inoperable.

The Right to Access Health Care:

Against this background it becomes imperative to put the spotlight on improving access to health care. Heart disease in children is one of the most common birth defects and needs a timely diagnosis and treatment. Every child should have the right to be receive care and get a chance at life irrespective of the socio-economic circumstances. In India there is a need for a collaborative systemic approach to ensure that every child gets access to pediatric cardiac care. Corporate donations to charity in India should help organisations working to support such children and families.

At the Foundation, we are driven by the vision of an India where no child born with a congenital heart defect dies or suffers only due to a lack of access to resources and treatment. Every child deserves a chance at life as – #HardilDhadaknaChahe.

This world health day, help us increase awareness about putting health of little children first and recognising that accessing healthcare is every child’s fundamental right, irrespective of the location and socio-economic status. Support us we continue working to reach the last child waiting for a treatment for a congenital heart defect.

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