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“Congenital heart health”: how psychological care can make a difference

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An integrated approach incorporating both physical and mental health is critical to “congenital heart health”

Congenital heart disease (CHD) affects more than 2400 Australian babies each year. It is the most common cause of admission to paediatric intensive care in the neonatal period,1 a leading cause of infant death2 and one of the leading causes of disease-related disability in children under 5 years of age.3 In Australia and around the world, the landscape of CHD care is rapidly evolving. With advances in medicine, survival has markedly improved over the past two decades4 and the best estimates suggest that the total population, from newborns through to adults living with CHD, now represents well over 65 000 Australians.5 These gains in survival are a triumph, but paradoxically, they bring new challenges. Earlier diagnosis, more complex treatment choices, longer survivorship and a need for transition from paediatric to adult cardiac services lead us into new territory. Embedded in each of these challenges are a range of psychological complexities, foremost of which is how to best support the wellbeing of people with CHD across a lifetime. “Congenital heart health” requires an integrated, life course approach — with equal emphasis on the physical and…

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