Valentine’s Day is all about romance. But for many families, February 14 has another meaning: Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Awareness Day.
This special day comes at the end of CHD Awareness Week (February 7-14) — a time to raise awareness about CHD, the most common type of birth defect.
“Congenital heart defect” is a catch-all phrase for a variety of heart abnormalities that develop before birth. CHDs can affect the heart’s structure and function, disrupting the normal flow of blood through the heart. CHDs are present at birth, but individuals born with CHD live with these conditions throughout their lives.
CHD Awareness Week honors children and adults born with a heart defect, their families, and the scientists and doctors who are continually working to improve diagnosis and treatment. It’s also a time to educate people about CHD and the need for more research. By participating in CHD Awareness Week, you can help bring awareness to CHD as well as help raise money for research and improving treatment.
CHD is surprisingly common. Researchers estimate that around 1.4 million American adults and 1 million children are living with CHDs, according to the CDC. Nearly 1 out of 100 babies are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). This means that every 15 minutes, a baby is born with CHD.
According to Children’s Health, the most common types of CHD are:
Some heart defects don’t need treatment or can be treated easily. Others may require surgery or other treatment. About 1 in 4 babies born with CHD has a critical congenital heart defect (also known as critical congenital heart disease, or CCHD). Babies with CCHD will need surgery or treatment within their first year of life. Without treatment, critical CHDs can be fatal.
There is good news, though: Since 1999, death rates from CHD in the U.S. have decreased by nearly 40% thanks to improved screening and treatment. All 50 states now require pulse oximetry testing for newborns, which can help identify critical CHDs so these babies can receive prompt treatment. Medical advancements mean that children born with CHDs are now living longer and healthier lives.
Now that you know the facts about CHD, what can you do to help? Here are seven ways to get involved:
Most people don’t realize how common CHDs are or how many people are affected by them. One easy way to help raise awareness is to share facts and statistics about CHD on your social media channels. More awareness means more research, which in turn leads to more life-saving treatment options for individuals with CHD. The CDC and Children’s Heart Foundation are two reputable sources for facts to share.
Red doesn’t just symbolize love and romance; it also represents heart health. By wearing red during CHD Awareness Week, you can help start a larger conversation about CHD and let those affected by this condition know they’re not alone. Pick out your favorite red outfit and encourage your friends and coworkers to do the same. Whether you dress in red head to toe or simply wear red nail polish or a red wristband, just remember to wear red and tell your friends why!
We all know that exercise is good for your heart. However, exercising can also benefit other people who need some extra support with their hearts as well. How? By joining a CHD fundraiser walk or 5K! Proceeds from these events help raise money for breakthrough research and treatment for CHDs.
The American Heart Association hosts an annual Heart Walk in over 300 cities across America. The walk helps support life saving science, like surgeries that help correct heart defects in newborn babies. The Children’s Heart Foundation also hosts an annual Congenital Heart Walk in 29 cities around the U.S. and nationwide via a Virtual Walk. So lace up your shoes, and let’s go!
As common as CHDs are, there’s a good chance you might know someone who is affected by one — or perhaps you have experienced one yourself. There are also many celebrities who have CHDs, including Olympic snowboarder Shaun White, Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell, and pop star Miley Cyrus. By sharing stories about real people with CHD on your social media channels, you can help raise significant awareness and put a face to CHD. Be sure to use the hashtags for CHD Week in your post: #CHDAwareness and #1in100.
In addition to joining a walk, there are many other volunteer opportunities to raise awareness and help families affected by CHD. You could prepare care packages or deliver items to families who have children in the hospital. You could also collect change at your workplace, stores, or restaurants in your community. Another option is to help organize or volunteer at an event. To find volunteer opportunities in your area, contact the Children’s Heart Foundation, Make-A-Wish, March of Dimes, or Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Everyone loves getting a valentine, and it’s an easy way to send some love to families affected by CHD and other health conditions. Grab some construction paper, scissors, and glue to make cards, or buy a pack of premade cards and write a heartfelt note. Organizations like Cards for Hospitalized Kids can help deliver your cards to hospitals around the country.
Some hospitals — like Children’s Miracle Network and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — also have online pages where you can design a virtual valentine for kids. These valentines are then printed and given out to patients in the hospital.
Did you know that you can help raise money for CHD while you shop? For example, setting up AmazonSmile can donate a percentage of your purchase to March of Dimes or another charity of your choice — at no cost to you. There’s also Heart2Heart Coffee, which donates 100% of profits from coffee sales to organizations like the Children’s Heart Foundation.
Whether you wear red, share facts and stories on your social media, or volunteer your time, your efforts will make a difference for individuals living with congenital heart defects and their families. For more disability-related events and observances you can participate in year-round, download our free 2022 Disability Events Calendar.