THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a bid to address the burden of heart diseases among children and to bring down the rate of infant mortality due to congenital heart defects (CHD), a universal critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) screening programme is on the anvil in the state.
The programme, which will cover both public and private hospitals, will be implemented first in 46 government hospitals that attend to a high number of delivery cases. “Ours has become the first state in the country to implement a screening programme for CHD and CCHD,” said Health Minister K K Shylaja after launching the programme on Wednesday.
“Under this initiative, hospitals will be mandated to screen newborns so that heart diseases can be detected early and thereby reduce infant mortality. We will launch it in a phased manner in public and private hospitals.”
At the same time, the Minister said that though the state had an initiative named Hridyam that supports children with CHD, the screening programme will further fortify it. Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said, as this is a new initiative, there is a need to raise awareness and educate both healthcare professionals and new parents about why screening has to be done at birth for heart defects.
“With such a screening in place, we can detect birth defects including sepsis, respiratory disorders, persistent pulmonary hypertension and transitional circulation,” said Rajeev. According to US-based Masimo, the technical partner for the programme, babies born with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours to prevent complications. While saying that the pulse oximetry technique will be used for screening, Masimo claims it is also the proven technology in detecting critical heart defects in infants.
By implementing a screening mechanism, the Health Department believes infant mortality rate can be brought down from 10 to 8 by 2020. As per the 2017 report of Levels and Trends in Child Mortality, 7,000 newborns die every day worldwide. Out of this, India contributes 24 per cent. The 2016 Sample Registration System report of the Registrar General of India states that the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) at the national level is 34 per 1,000 live births.