Congenital heart disease (CHD) refers to structural heart defects present at birth, affecting the heart’s form and function. CHD remains a significant global health issue, impacting millions of children across the world, with approximately 1 in 100 live births being affected. In recent years, Malaysia has observed a disconcerting surge in the occurrence of CHD in newborns, with an estimated 5,000 infants born with this condition annually. Shockingly, two-thirds of these infants require surgical intervention. This alarming increase underscores the immediate need for proactive measures and government intervention through the Ministry of Health Malaysia to address this growing health crisis.
In 2016, more than 400 children under the age of 5 lost their lives to congenital heart disease in Malaysia, resulting in the loss of 34,000 years of potential life. Nevertheless, Malaysia only has three facilities capable of providing paediatric cardiac care for all these affected children.
Families coping with CHD-afflicted infants find themselves not only enduring emotional distress but also facing significant financial challenges due to the exorbitant costs associated with medical treatments and surgeries. The healthcare system is under mounting pressure to deliver specialised care and surgeries for infants with CHD, but most of these interventions come with steep financial burdens for CHD-affected families, creating a strain on healthcare providers and the limited financial resources of these families.
To tackle this pressing issue, the government must take decisive actions for long-term solutions. First and foremost, the government should offer direct subsidies or financial programs for CHD treatment, surgeries, and medications. These programs can provide grants, low-interest loans, or cash assistance to help families cover the medical expenses related to CHD. Allocating funds for CHD research is imperative for gaining a deeper understanding of its root causes to help in implementing preventive measures. Second, since Malaysia only has three facilities capable of providing paediatric cardiac care to CHD children, it is important to invest in training more paediatric cardiac specialists to help address the shortage of specialised care facilities in the country.
The government should also introduce legislation that mandates health insurance coverage for CHD screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Financial assistance or subsidies for CHD treatment, including surgeries and medications, should be made available within the insurance coverage. Insurance companies also have a crucial role to play in addressing this issue by offering comprehensive coverage for CHD, including prenatal screening and long-term care. Eliminating pre-existing condition clauses that deny coverage to children with CHD is of utmost importance.
In conclusion, the alarming rise of congenital heart disease in Malaysian newborns is a critical health crisis that demands immediate attention and concerted efforts from all stakeholders. The government, healthcare authorities, and insurance companies must work together to address the root causes of CHD, expand the availability of specialized care facilities, and ensure financial support for affected families. By doing so, we can not only reduce the emotional and financial burden on these families but also save the lives of countless infants born with CHD. The time to act is now, as every child deserves a healthy start in life, regardless of their heart’s condition at birth.
Ashraff Hussni is an experienced strategic communicator in cutting-edge technology industry within the public sector for more than a decade. Serve as the key point-person for developing, implementing, and executing public relations initiatives, strategic plans, and activities focused on building and strengthening the company’s brand through strategic communication, media relations, branding, and event management.