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Release: Feb. 13, 2001

February 14 declared Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Gov. Tom Vilsack has declared Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, as a special day of awareness about congenital heart disease, the most common birth defect in the United Sates.

Approximately 32,000 babies are born in the United States with congenital heart disease. More than one million Americans are currently living with congenital heart defects nationwide.

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day was first proclaimed in 1999. Since then, governors and mayors across the nation and in other countries have joined the effort to increase public awareness of congenital heart disease.

"Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day is a wonderful opportunity to help everyone become more aware of the challenges faced by families with children who were born with heart disease," said Deb Johnson of Iowa City, herself a mother of a child with a heart defect. "It also helps families realize that they are not the only family that is affected by congenital heart disease, and learn where they can turn for support."

Organizers also say they hope that Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day will build support for increased funding for research efforts and educational services for patients and their families.

"We have many more treatments for congenital heart disease than we did even just a few years ago," said Dianne Atkins, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist in the Children's Hospital of Iowa. "With all of the advanced treatments we can provide, a child born with a heart problem is often able to live a long, healthy life."

To celebrate Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day, a Valentine’s party is scheduled from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Activities Therapy Gym,1 JPP, at the Children's Hospital of Iowa. The event is for friends and family of children with congenital heart defects, medical staff who care for children with congenital heart defects and anyone interested in learning more about congenital heart defects. The party will be hosted by Heart Friends, a support group for parents who have children with congenital heart defects. Please contact Lisa at (515) 253-2368 if you wish to attend.

Additional information about Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day is available online at

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