Although the incidence of congenital heart disease (CHD) is similar worldwide, the burden of supporting these patients falls more heavily on countries with high fertility rates. In a country with a fertility rate of about eight per woman, the population has to support four times as many children with CHD as in a country with a fertility rate of two. Countries with the highest fertility rates tend to have the lowest incomes per capita, thus accentuating the disparity. Countries with high fertility rates have more children with congenital heart disease per wage earner. Improving local health services and controlling infectious diseases (diarrhoeal illness, rheumatic fever, measles, rotoviral infection) are important but are mere 'band-aids' compared to improving education, empowering women and reducing birth rates.