Kerala First State to Implement Universal Newborn Screening Program
Kerala continues to set a progressive example for the rest of the country. The state government has announced a new screening initiative requiring all newborns born in public health facilities to be screened for developmental diseases and defects within 48 hours of birth, The News Minute reports. The Comprehensive Newborn Screening (CNS) program is the first of its kind in India.
“Since Kerala has low infant mortality rates now, we are focusing on the quality of survival of the newborns,” Dr M. Sreehari told The News Minute. Sreehari is the State Nodal Officer for Child Health in the National Health Mission. “The low infant mortality rates do not reflect the quality of life of the surviving children.”
Kerala newborns will be screened for visible birth defects, functional birth defects, metabolic defects, and neurodevelopmental defects. Dr. Sreehari said the state government hopes to catch and treat defects as early as possible in order to prevent the onset of disabilities later on.
Within the functional birth defect screenings, babies will be tested for hearing disabilities, with the goal of taking corrective measures within the first six months. They’ll also be screened for heart defects and congenital heart diseases.
Additionally, newborns will be screened for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a birth defect brought about by the high oxygen flow delivered to premature babies in intensive care units, which can lead to blindness. If ROP is screened for and corrective measures are undertaken early, blindness can be prevented.
Kerala previously had screening programs for congenital heart diseases and hypothyroidism, they were not universal, unlike the new program. “Our target is to reduce Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) to 8 by the year 2020 from the current rate of 10,” said Dr. Sreehari. “This initiative will help to improve the quality of life of surviving children.”