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Posted at: Jun 26, 2017, 1:30 AM; last updated: Jun 26, 2017, 10:40 AM (IST)

In govt schools, 1 in 20 kids afflicted with disease, birth defect

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 25

One in 20 government schoolchildren in India has some disease, deficiency, birth defect or development delay which has long gone undetected.

The largest burden of childhood disease in India is coming from dental, skin and vision impairment conditions apart from congenital heart disease which, if missed, can lead to massive out of pocket healthcare costs for families.

For the first time ever, a national-level data has been generated on the extent of childhood disease, paving the way for its early management and consequential reduction in future financial burden on families.

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India’s maiden child health screening and early intervention programme — Rashtriya Bal Vikas Karyakram — has revealed that 135 lakh out of 2,900 lakh school and anganwari children screened by health workers through 2016 and 2017 reported at least one of the 30 conditions listed for early identification. The prevalence comes to around 4.65 per cent.

The programme categorises these 30 conditions under four broad Ds — defects at birth, diseases, deficiencies and development delays.

Of the children identified with listed conditions, 43.7 per cent have already been referred to central or state government facilities for management under the National Health Mission, which sets aside funds for the programme. Allocation under the programme for 2016-2017 has been Rs 1,749.57 crore.

In the survey across anganwaris and 14 lakh government and government-aided schools, 86.2 lakh (2.89 per cent) children have reported conditions listed in the category of diseases.

These include dental and skin conditions, otitis media (middle ear infection), rheumatoid heart disease, reactive airway disease and convulsive disorders.

The top 10 disease/deficiency conditions in India’s government school-goers are — dental problems (40.70 lakh children), skin conditions (25.17 lakh), vision impairment (11.26 lakh), severe anaemia (11 lakh); reactive airway disease (10.91 lakh); middle ear infection (8.18 lakh), vitamin A deficiency (3.79 lakh), language delays (1.27 lakh), convulsive disorders (1.17 lakh) and congenital heart disease (1.03 lakh). A majority of children (86.2 lakh) screened showed symptoms of diseases, followed by 20.7 lakh children who presented deficiencies; 16.3 lakh with development delays and 2.46 lakh with birth defects.

A range of birth defects (such as cleft lip and palate and club foot) in identified children are now being corrected through surgical techniques. Among birth defects, congenital heart disease was found to have maximum occurrence (1.03 lakh children), followed by club foot (30,114), congenital deafness (26,748) and cleft lip and palate (24,547).

The top occurring development delays in government school-goers in India are vision impairment (11.26 lakh), hearing impairment (1.05 lakh), language learning delays (1.27 lakh), learning disorder (75,307) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (23, 327). Severe anaemia tops the list of most common childhood deficiencies followed by vitamin A and D deficiencies.

The government plans to make its child health screening plan a major part of its Universal Health Coverage agenda. Vandana Gurnani, Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry, overseeing the programme, says: “The programme will ensure not just early screening but also treatment and management. Between 2016 and 2017, as many as 135 lakh children were identified with one of the four ‘Ds’ and 59.5 lakh have already availed of the care.”

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