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Fund promotes awareness of children with heart disease Daily Star staff | Wednesday, March 04, 2009

BEIRUT: The Brave Heart Fund wanted to make a resounding impact Tuesday with this year's strong awareness campaign slogan,"Babies need open-heart surgery too." Every year, one in 100 babies is born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). In Lebanon alone, over 600 babies are diagnosed with heart disease every year. About 400 of these children will need some form of treatment. If untreated, about 70 percent of babies with complex CHD will not live to see their first birthday.

To talk about these facts and many related others; a press conference was organized by the Brave Heart Fund at the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel. On the agenda, the launch of the 2009 Awareness Campaign for CHD in cooperation with Children's Heart Center at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), the achievements of the Brave Heart Fund since its establishment in 2003, and upcoming projects.

An array of medical and social figures were present at the conference as well as many key people from medical centers and other top officials, including Lebanese of Public Health, Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh, and the Brave Heart Fund Committee.

The Brave Heart Fund is a charitable fundraising initiative established in 2003 at AUBMC and operated by volunteers whose lives have been touched by CHD. The Brave Heart Fund provides financial aid to needy families by helping them cover their children's medical or surgical costs.

"The collaboration between the public and the private sectors is very advanced in Lebanon. The best example is the support of the Public Health Ministry to the Brave Heart Fund especially that its main mission, of high importance, is to help the children affected by the congenital heart disease," the health minister said.

Joumana Ghandour Atallah, one of the fund's founding members, said that since its inception five years ago Brave Heart has covered the medical expenses of over 500 babies and children. Fadi Bitar, director of the Children's Heart Center at AUBMC and a founding member of the Brave Heart Fund, explained that CHD is the most common birth defect and the leading cause of death in the first year of life. At least 35 types of defects are recognized, ranging from simple to complex malformations. The causes of most CHD are still unknown, according to Bitar. To date, the Brave Heart Fund has treated 530 children with over 1500 donors.

Also Tuesday, the Brave Heart Fund announced its planned activities for 2009. These initiatives will engage civil society and increase the number of lives saved.

Upcoming projects include a fundraising gala dinner on March 13, 2009, and an awareness message at the 62nd Cannes Festival from May 13-24, 2009, during which a Brave Heart Fund video spot will run on four giant outdoor screens. Other projects include the fund's participation at the upcoming 6th Beirut International Marathon in November of 2009 as Partner NGO.

A 29-second TV spot highlighting the fact that heart disease affects children as well as adults was screened during the news conference. The spot, directed by Mazen Fayad and produced by the Fantastic Film Factory, will be aired on all national TV stations during March 2009.

"I truly believe the information about this cause is [neither] enough [nor] sufficiently disseminated; my concern when I did the spot was to contribute by increasing attention on the fact that 'no child dies of heart disease because of a lack of funds,'" Fayad said. - The Daily Star

For more information about the Brave Heart Fund, visit:

Donations can be made to:

AUB - Brave Heart Fund, Office of Development
American University of Beirut
PO Box 11-0236, Riad al-Solh
Beirut 1107 2020
Tel: + 961 1 366 445