Newborn Screening In India: What to expect in 2016?




By Robin Chatterjee, Managing Editor

There are a few key takeaways from the below graphical representation.


First, we are doing quite well in terms of lowering the child mortality and certainly going by the current trend, we should be standing below global average within 2-3 years. Second, the representation also marks the rise in hospital care in India especially in context of neonatal care. Third, and this is something the graph doesn’t say is the fact that per capita income is also on a linear increase, enabling people to opt for better care. When these three pointers are taken into consideration we can safely say that this is the most opportune time to implement the Newborn Screening Program in India with a universal delivery mechanism. It is the onus of not only the Government but also people at large to give our children not just a life but a healthy one. Genetic and Metabolic disorders make a dent on the “life” quotient that we are talking about. Improving the quality of life (QOL) of children suffering from these rare disorders should now become our central point of discussion.

Newborn screening plays a significant role in this context. It’s been there in the western world for over 50 years and because we were so engaged to make a newborn survive, we just couldn’t look into this aspect. Come 2016, we are in a position where Newborn Screening can actually see substantial impact on the way a healthy child is looked upon in our country.

Dr. S. Sachidananda Kamath, National President, IAP (Indian Academy of Paediatrics) in one of his presidential addresses said “India is going through a progressive transitional phase of control over infant mortality and morbidity due to infections, and emergence of genetic conditions. The WHO has recommended that genetic services should be introduced in countries with an infant mortality rate (IMR) less than 50.” He further added that

“the Indian Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates inclusion of newborn screening in our public health policy, and will offer its technical and logistic inputs to the Government of India for initiating this program.”

Watch Dr. Ashok Gupta, Medical Superintendent, JK Lone Hospital, Jaipur talking about Newborn Screening in India.

That brings us to the onus part. Governments both central and state should now look into the technical aspects of bringing Universal screening for about 40 to 50 metabolic disorders like in the US or UK. Medical Associations like the IAP can be the implementation partners and big corporate hospitals can participate as delivery partners. Awareness among the public community will also require collaboration with Obstetrics and family physicians.

In a paper tiled “Newborn screening: need of the hour in India”, Paediatricians from the Center of Medical Genetics, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, firmly said that the recent improvements and current trends in healthcare in India have created the necessary infrastructure for adopting NBS for the benefit of infants in India. Click here to read.

But is the Paediatricians community ready to take up the program at in its entity? I asked a few well-known Paediatricians over a Twitter chat and following is what they had to say. At first there the skepticism over the program was visible clearly because of the unorganized nature of Indian Healthcare.Tweet1


Then we had the solutions coming up, where the role of Private sec was highlighted.


At the end, as Dr. Alok Gupta said “Every Child Matters”.