Newborn Screening in Kenya: Current Perspectives and why it is the need of the hour?

Biotechnology & Healthcare New Born Screening
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For a newborn baby, the first and foremost gift every parent can give is a healthy future. In a developing nation like Kenya, despite it being the healthcare capital for its neighbouring countries, still, the healthcare here has to evolve to cover wider aspects. One among them is definitely treating the diseases of the future, today. It should be given a paramount of importance, and there exists only one reason to do that. Because we can do it. With a drop of blood, Newborn Screening can ensure a better future as we are detecting around 50+ diseases that may affect a just born baby in the near future. Being the method of detecting the disorders at its earliest form, it enables timely intervention in order to prevent any serious consequences that may happen.

As per the SRS bulletin released recently, Kenya has registered a significant decline in under-five child mortality rate. The rate of decline has just doubled over the last year. What stood as 43 per 1000 in 2015, decreased by 4 points to 39 in 2016! Between 1990 and 2018, India showed a remarkable progress as the under-five mortality was reduced by 66%. The current under-five mortality for the male child is 37 per 1000 and for female, it is at 41 per 100 live births. However, the neonatal mortality rate is still in a critical condition in Kenya  as the rate of reduction is just 1 point. What stood as 25 per 1000 live births was reduced to just 24 per 1000 live births, making Kenya, the 12th worst in the world, when it comes to neonatal mortality rate. This rate of decline can be further amplified using Newborn Screening. It can be the bridge to nullify the infant mortality rate and ensure there is a better future for every newborn baby. In most of the developed nations, Newborn Screening has been made mandatory and it has been given a paramount importance. It has become an integral part of their neonatal evaluation. There are millions of newborns per year screened under this Newborn Screening Program for a number of disorders. Such timely detection, diagnosis and intervention for genetic disorders is the need of the hour in Kenya.

There are over 6000 inherited disorders and the inborn errors of metabolism is a subset that causes metabolic disturbances among the neonates. If it is not timely identified or intervened, it may lead to a permanent neurological damage, physical inability and sometimes even death. As mentioned earlier, Newborn Screening can be the simple solution for this. It is a process where the newborns are subjected to a simple blood test for the detection of above genetic disorders.It must be noted that the Universal Newborn Screening Program has been credited as a triumph of modern science and was listed one among the top 10 great public health achievements by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

We should stress the importance of Newborn Screening and the government should fund the same for better progress. Awareness programs, educating the rural masses about this opportunity can bring a change here.

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