Happy Heart Clinic

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Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is an entirely preventable disease affecting the delicate valves of the heart. While it has been eradicated in the majority of the Australian population for over six decades, it is sadly still prevalent in our First Nations’ communities. Once a person has developed Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) or RHD, they require a painful monthly injection until they are 21 years of age or for 10 years to avoid ARF recurrence or further damage to the heart.

While their peers are out playing at the park, drawing or visiting the far-flung worlds of their imagination, this group of children face the fear and trauma of visiting a large sterile building to receive life-saving needles. And not just any needle, a very big, very painful needle.

The consequences of not getting their regular LA Bicillin injections are dire, with the medication helping maintain heart health and prevent possible open-heart surgery or even death.

Knowing the importance of getting things right from the start Clinical Nurse Consultant Erin Ferguson saw the importance of engaging these children and involving them in their care. Instead of being restrained or having clinicians become frustrated when they were scared, children didn’t care if the person was good at giving needles, they just wanted clinicians to be nice and for their voice to be heard.

In partnership with paediatric cardiologist Dr Ben Reeves, Erin extensively partnered with consumers to design a model that now helps children choose how they want to receive the injection and how best to distract them. But make no mistake, kindness is key!

Not only has the service drastically improved attendance rates, but it is also building an empowered group of health consumers into the future. And keeping them happy and healthy children in the meantime.



Listen to our podcast on Happy Heart Clinic: Improving children's experiences of regular LA Bicillin injections in rheumatic heart disease.

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Improvement Exchange

Visit the Happy Heart Clinic page on the improvement exchange to learn more about setting up the service.

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Advancing Kidney Care 2026

Rheumatic heart disease

Learn more on Queensland’s approach to ending acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

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Ending Rheumatic Heart Disease

Read the Ending Rheumatic Heart Disease Queensland First Nations Strategy 2021-2024

View Strategy (PDF, 1.6MB)

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