Sonia Gandhi to launch universal child health screening service today

Thane, Feb 6 (ANI): Congress President Sonia Gandhi will launch a national health programme in Palghar, a tribal block in Maharashtra's Thane district, today.

The National Rural Health Mission of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India's new initiative of child health screening and early intervention services will provide comprehensive care to all children.

The purpose of these services is to improve the overall quality of life of children through early detection of birth defects, diseases, deficiencies, development delays including disability.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan will be present on the occasion.

It may be mentioned that the burden of birth defects, development delays due to deficiencies and diseases is significant in children. This is also one of the important factors for child mortality and out of pocket expenditure for poor families. Birth defects account for 9.6 percent of all new-born deaths and 4 percent of under five mortality. According to March of Dimes, 2006, out of every 100 babies born in this country annually, 6 to 7 have a birth defect. In Indian context, this would translate to 17 lakhs birth defects annually.

Development delays affect at least 10 percent children and these delays if not intercepted timely may lead to permanent disabilities including cognitive, hearing or vision.

A set of thirty common conditions have been identified for screening and further management. These services are built on the existing school health services and these services will be provided through dedicated mobile health teams placed in every block. The block level dedicated mobile medical health teams would comprise of four health personnel viz. two AYUSH doctors (one male, one female), ANM/ SN and a pharmacist.

The teams will carry out screening of all the children in the age group 0 - 6 years enrolled at Anganwadi centres at least twice a year besides screening of all children enrolled in Government and Government aided schools.

The newborns will also be screened for birth defects in health facilities where deliveries take place and during the home visit by ASHA. An estimated 27 crore children in the age group of zero to eighteen years are expected to be covered in a phased manner.

The district early intervention centre is envisaged to be made operational in all districts of the country for providing management of these referred cases from the blocks and will also link these cases with tertiary level health services in case of surgical management. The existing services from ministry of women and child, social justice and empowerment and education will also be optimally utilized.

Necessary treatment costs would be provided under National Rural Health Mission to tertiary level institutions whether in Government or Private sector. The implementation of these services will also generate country wide epidemiological data on selected health conditions for improved future planning of health services.

Early identification of select health conditions and their linkage to care, support and treatment, under Child Health Screening and Early Intervention Services will help to achieve equitable child health care.

In the long run, the programme would prove economical for the poor and marginalized through reducing out of pocket expenditure, burden of diseases, improving health awareness among community, improving the professionalism in service delivery and finally strengthening the public sector hospitals. This would lead to promotion of health among children which is of fundamental value to the entire nation. (ANI)

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