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Health trust and charity join forces to launch world's first app for heart defect teenagers

By Victoria O'Hara

A new app - believed to be the first in the world dedicated to the care and needs of teenagers with congenital heart disease - has been launched by Northern Ireland's largest health trust and a children's charity.

The program, which is called CHD Transition NI, is designed to help youths make the move from paediatric treatment to adult care.

By using the app, adolescents can manage their medication, find out more about their condition and keep in regular contact with their doctors and medical team, encouraging both ownership and understanding of their health needs.

It is estimated that more than 224,000 babies worldwide died from congenital heart conditions in 2010.

Congenital heart defects (CHD) are the most common type of birth defect in Northern Ireland. One in 180 babies here are diagnosed with CHD - an average of 12 each month.

An event to launch the app, which comes from the Children's Heartbeat Trust and the Belfast Trust, also highlighted the publication of a new book on the problem.

Congenital Heart Disease and Neurodevelopment is edited by Professor Christopher McCusker and Dr Frank Casey, from the Clark Clinic in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

It is based on innovative research on children with CHD across Northern Ireland in which clinicians looked at the development of the child as a whole - particularly with reference to the brain and central nervous system - rather than simply focusing on treatment of the heart. The findings showed that this approach benefited the development of the child.

The techniques pioneered are considered to be leading the field in the care of children with CHD and are now being used across Europe.

Sarah Quinlan, of the Children's Heartbeat Trust, said: "Launching not just one, but two examples of innovation in health coming from Northern Ireland is exciting for all those families living with CHD.

"While Dr McCusker and Dr Casey's book shows how our clinicians have worked to develop the best possible care for children with CHD, the app shows the practical steps that are being taken to help teenagers learn to cope with their condition.

"The care heart kids receive in the Clark Clinic in partnership with other healthcare professionals has always been first-class, and the book Congenital Heart Disease and Neurodevelopment will see the doctors' work being used as a template for care all over the world.

"To launch the first-ever app dedicated to the care and to the needs of teenagers with CHD is a huge step.

"We are absolutely delighted that the Belfast Trust has seen the value in embracing the development of technology to help deliver the message and care for these teenagers.

"We are seeing Belfast emerging as a leader in the development of care and health management though technology.

"The Children's Heartbeat Trust is delighted that Belfast and Northern Ireland are taking the lead in the treatment and care of CHD, and we hope that this can continue with the development of Belfast as a centre of excellence through a new children's heart centre."

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