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Children and the Cycle of Heart Disease How Early SDOH Interventions Can Save Lives

Cases of heart disease in children are rising, and the world must stop and take notice before the situation gets out of hand. In fact, according to data from the CDC, cases of congenital heart defects are skyrocketing, with about 1 million children affected by CDH in the US alone. And that’s without factoring in the other types of heart disease. At the heart of this pandemic, are SDOH factors that further increase the risk of heart disease. So it’s possible that if we provide the right SDOH interventions at the right time, then we might just save young lives from being extinguished prematurely.

SDOH – A look at what they are and why they matter

Social determinants of health, otherwise known as SDOH, are essentially non-medical factors that influence, could be positive or negative, health outcomes in one way or the other. According to WHO, some popular social determinants of health include: 

  • Access to health services
  • Basic needs like shelter 
  • Lifestyle factors such as eating habits
  • Education
  • Food insecurity and so on. 

How early SDOH interventions can break the cycle of heart disease in children 

  • Cultivating physical activeness that reduces the risk of heart disease

Today, a lot of children spend more time behind screens than in the outdoors. In fact, research estimates that children spend over 44 hours in front of the screen, and that’s just in one week. Ultimately this leads to physical inactivity, which raises the risk of coronary heart disease mortality by at least 35%, according to the NY Department of Health. 

If parents, schools, and the community at large can take it upon themselves to make kids more physically active through exercise and fitness programs, for example, then we can give every child a fighting chance against heart disease. 

  • Patient literacy can lead to early treatment 

One of the top reasons why heart disease is the number one killer worldwide is the fact that many cases of heart disease are picked up very late. Usually, by the time a child develops any symptoms, the condition is at the latter stages and irreversible damage has already taken place. 

However, if we can invest in more heart disease awareness programs, we can help educate children and their families on the importance of early and regular health screening. In doing so, doctors can pick up the early onset of diseases, which can lead to a near-normal life expectancy for children with heart disease.

  • Nutritional counseling can lower dietary risks 

In the US alone, 415,000 cardiovascular (CVD) disease deaths are the direct result of a bad diet, according to a report by Medical News Today. This accounts for half of CVD fatalities and goes to show just why proper dieting is a key SDOH factor that needs more focus.

Via nutritional counseling, it’s possible to help children to be more mindful about what they eat, right from a young age, equipping them with the knowledge and encouragement that will help them to: 

  • Cut out the wrong foods from the diets
  • Embrace the right nutrients
  • Observe proper hydration
  • Avoiding risky habits like smoking and so on. 
  • Addressing access barriers with virtual care

Did you know that 4.5 billion people did not have access to essential health services in 2021? That’s more than half of the world’s population, which goes to show how access barriers are a very big deal. 

Most of these access barriers have to do with geographical and infrastructural limitations, which contribute to patients not being able to get regular screening for their children. However, this is one problem that we may solve with virtual care solutions, which can help us devolve care to the patient and additionally make it more affordable to help lower the economic factor that can also contribute to healthcare inaccessibility. 

If we can leverage virtual care to improve the reach of essential health services amid the physician shortage we are facing, then it’s inevitable that we’ll be able to reach more children in time. 

  • Improving living conditions is critical

Research by the NIH has also shown a strong correlation between heart disease and poverty and stress. Children from lower-income households face an increased risk of heart disease as well as diabetes and cancer, and this is a problem that governments and organizations must work to address. 

By elevating the living standards of families through affordable housing projects and social inclusion programs, we can take out or at least lower the stress factor, leading to healthier environments that encourage healthy habits, which lower the risk of heart disease in children. 

Solving SDOH is a crucial necessity

According to WHO, 80% of CVD deaths are preventable and are born directly from SDOH factors. While medical factors of heart disease often get the most focus, this is a huge wake-up call that social determinants of health are not to be swept under the rug. But this is not just a battle for families or hospitals alone. It’s a fight that requires all hands on deck as society needs to come together, for that is the only way we can level the SDOH inequalities and give our children a better chance against heart disease. 

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