The government has asked 50 hospitals across the country to detail the health and condition of every baby born for a first programme that will help gauge the prevalence of birth defects and aid timely intervention.
The initiative comes a year after a survey of 18.7 crore children from hospitals, angangwadi centres and schools showed that 3.46 lakh had birth defects that could have potentially been corrected.
“Of those screened, 1.3 crore children were found to have some form of birth defects, developmental delays, deficiencies or specific diseases such as thalassemia, rheumatic heart disease ,” said Ajay Khera, director, mother and child health programme, health ministry.
Birth defects can manifest in physical deformities and serious medical conditions that can impact life expectancy. Lack of attention at birth, especially for children from economically weaker section, means they go on to live with ailments that could have been addressed.
The hospitals selected will catalogue the type of defects, medical history of the mothers and possible causes for a database that will sent to the health ministry on a monthly basis. The data will be reviewed annually.
“Earlier, the focus was on newborn survival, but now we are looking at improving quality of life of our children. These defects should be corrected in childhood for best treatment outcomes but in most cases, the child grows up with the deformity and develops low self-esteem as a teenager,” Khera said.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), PGI Chandigarh and CMC Vellore are among the 50 hospitals selected, including district government facilities.
According to records, of the 2.6 crore births every year, 2 crore are in government hospitals.