Life-saving heart care for the children of Peru
Heart to Heart’s vision is that all babies and children in Peru, regardless of what part of the country they are born in, will have access to life-saving heart care. In collaboration with Peruvian healthcare leaders, we have taken our first steps to realize this vision. Over the next decade we will develop a nationwide network of heart centers throughout the country (population: 30 million).
In 2015, we confirmed that the country of Peru meets all of Heart to Heart’s program development criteria, and that their government is committed to the advancement of cardiac care nationwide. The hundreds of specialists we’ve trained throughout Russia now serve tens of millions of people on two continents, Asia and Europe.
The remarkable success that our Russian medical colleagues have had – at six different sites throughout Russia – has confirmed the replicability and scalability of Heart to Heart’s program model. This success has inspired us to move forward to a third continent, South America.
Childhood heart disease (also known as congenital heart defects, or CHD) is the most common birth defect worldwide, affecting 1 in every 100 babies. On the continent of South America, 65,000 babies are born annually with congenital heart defects. Of these, 6,000 are born in Peru, and 3,000 of them will need surgical intervention by the time they are three years of age, if they are to survive. The cardiac community of Peru currently has the annual capacity to perform surgery on approximately 750 children with less severe forms of CHD. Because the unmet need greatly exceeds capacity, the backlog of young patients in Peru grows dramatically each year.
Laying the groundwork: First steps in Lima
Through multiple healthcare delivery systems, the Peruvian government is actively working toward ensuring accessible healthcare for all residents. The two largest and most advanced systems are Seguro Social de Salud del Perú (ESSALUD) and the Peruvian Ministry of Health (MINSA) – providing coverage to 87% of all Peruvians.
Since March 2015, Heart to Heart has been conducting a series of in-depth discussions with key stakeholders in Peru regarding how to collaboratively advance cardiac care nationwide. Negotiations are underway to formalize long-term collaborations with Heart to Heart to reach our mutual goal.
Lima, the capital and home to around one-third of the nation’s population, is the only city in Peru where children can undergo open heart surgery. To effectively advance heart care throughout Peru, we have begun work in Lima to: (1) increase the capacity of their basic medical infrastructure, which already serves a large number of residents of Lima with heart disease, but cannot meet current need; (2) help cardiac specialists in Lima to achieve surgical outcomes comparable to those at centers in the U.S. and Europe by 2020; (3) “train the trainers” in Lima, who will then join us to expand our work to Peru’s provinces during the second phase of our collaboration. Heart to Heart’s vision dovetails perfectly with ESSALUD’s recently ratified five-year strategic plan for expanding heart care nationwide.
For over 25 years, our approach has been to identify, collaborate with, and advance medical communities that are ready for a transfer of knowledge. Our stepwise teaching and training empowers them to integrate the surgical treatment of heart disease into their existing medical infrastructure in a relatively short period of time. Heart to Heart’s institutional knowledge in pediatric cardiac program development readily enables us to design a blueprint to self-sustainability for any nascent pediatric team. We look forward to applying this knowledge to develop a nationwide network of new teams of pediatric cardiac specialists to give every child of Peru access to life-saving heart care.