Thiruvanathapuram: In a first in the country, Kerala will soon introduce a universal Comprehensive Newborn Screening (CNS) programme to assess newborns in public health facilities in the State for birth abnormalities and critical congenital illnesses within 48 hours of birth, to improve the quality of survival of these babies.
The initiative will help in the early identification and management of all deficits in infants at appropriate ages so that the State’s burden of developmental delays and disabilities can be reduced in the long run.
This will also help Kerala bring down its infant mortality rate.
Kerala is currently screening all its newborns in public sector facilities for inherent metabolic disorders (blood test) and hearing deficit (OAE- Oto Acoustic Emissions test).
Last year, a programme for the early detection and management of congenital heart diseases (Hridyam) was also initiated.
However, all these programmes remain scattered and the Health Department at present does not have a foolproof mechanism to document or track those infants who needs continuous follow-up treatment.
“When we are ensuring the survival of premature babies and babies with low birth weight, it is also important that we ensure the quality of their survival. Under CNS initiative, we plan to converge all newborn screening programmes under a single umbrella on a web-based platform, with a unified reporting system and link ups with District Early Intervention Centres (DEICs) so that every infant is tracked,”says M. Sreehari, State Nodal Officer (Child Health), National Health Mission.
Thus newborns will be assessed under four domains, visible birth defects, functional deficits (hearing issues, congenital cataract or heart diseases), metabolic disorders and neuro developmental issues
Protocols would be developed for CNS to be followed by all delivery points in public sector.
Accordingly, all newborns will undergo a comprehensive clinical examination within the first 48 hours to detect any visible birth defects. Before the baby is discharged, all other proposed screening tests would also be performed.
App for documentation
An android app has been developed for visible birth defect reporting and documentation at all delivery points, which will link every positive case of disability recorded, to the DEIC concerned as well as the field workers in the locality, who will monitor and follow-up the infant.
The public health facilities are handling only about 1.35 lakh deliveries in the State out of the approximately five lakh deliveries in the State annually.
The plan is to follow up infants born in the private sector utilising the Health Department’s field workers within the first 28 days of birth and to link them too into the web-based reporting system.