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Member (Health) in NITI Aayog Dr VK Paul launches National Birth Defect Awareness Month 2024

New Delhi: Member (Health) in NITI Aayog Dr VK Paul on Friday launched the National Birth Defect Awareness Month 2024.
"The theme of this National Birth Defect Awareness Month 2024 is "Breaking Barriers: inclusive support for children with birth defects". The birth defects awareness campaign would be focusing on the awareness about prevention, early identification and timely management," as per a Ministry of Health and Family Welfare press release.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Paul lauded Rashtriya Bal Swashtya Karyakram (RBSK) which is proving to be a catalyst in child health. He said, "160 crore children have been examined under the programme and it is a guarantee for child health." He appreciated the work of Mobile Health teams and District Early Interventions teams for ensuring child health and reaching to the hinterlands for successful implementation of RBSK.
"Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana is an aspirational scheme which covers half of India's health and that can be instrumental in child health too along with existing Rashtriya Bal Swashtya Karyakram." he said.
"Dr Paul said that there is a need to address the birth defects to lower the child mortality, though the ratio of birth defects' mortality is less compared to deaths caused by malaria, pneumonia and other diseases," as per the release.
He said "under Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram our priority is to achieve a complete health for children and this National Birth Defect Awareness Month 2024 campaign would be a catalyst in raising the awareness for the cause".
"More Intensity and more coverage needs to be done to redress the issue of birth defects", he added.
Dr VK Paul also urged students to opt for Pediatrics in PG to support and strengthen child health as children are most vulnerable to defects detected at birth. "Even the family feel isolated knowing the issues of birth defects. These will be addressed through this campaign", he said.
"Particularly for neural tube defect (NTDs), the modality of Folic Acid supplementation works immensely. Time has come that we need to take Folic acid supplementation to the highest level," he said.
"Pre-pregancy care is significant for a woman, nutritional status, BMI, Thyroid and UTI etc. should also be taken care as this would help in healthy child birth", he added.
Apurva Chandra, Union Health Secretary emphasized on early identification of birth defects especially Club Foot, Hearing impairments, retinal defects, cleft lips etc. as these impaire child's future. Elated with the campaign, he said this month-long awareness campaign will be instrumental in addressing the child birth defects issue.
"Keeping registry of child birth defects through the ABHA can play a siginificant role in keeping records of children treated or not treated and further actions can be steered accordingly in identification and treatment", he added.
On this occasion, good performing State/UTs for Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram were felicitated for their achievements.
"This campaign is an effort for observing Birth defect day, which is observed on March 3rd every year and the National Birth Defect Awareness Month is an initiative in raising awareness for all birth defects and improve the care and treatment for children. The month-long activities are planned under Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram of Child Health division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) for creating nationwide awareness at community level," as per the release.
India has witnessed a significant reduction in child mortality since the inception of the National Health Mission. Presently, the neonatal mortality rate is 20 per 1000 live births, the infant mortality rate is 28 per 1000 live births and Under 5 mortality rate is 32 per 1000 live births as per Sample Registration System 2020 Report. Birth defects contribute significantly to perinatal, neonatal and under five morbidity and mortality.
"Six per cent of children are born with Birth Defects every year worldwide. As per Cause of Death Statistics 2017-19 report of Sample Registration System under Registrar General of India, Birth Defect contributes to 4.9 per cent defects of neonatal mortality and 5.7 per cent of U5MR mortality. Hence, it is imperative that we address this significant issue to improve the survival and health outcome of our children," the release stated.
Being aware of the impact of Birth Defects on our future generation, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is giving utmost priority to strategies for their identification, prevention and management under Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK). Early identification with assured linkage to care, support and treatment introduces equitable child health care approach, which in the end will reduce the burden of disability, improve health and ensure development of children born with Birth Defects.
RBSK focuses on early identification and management of birth defects to minimize disability. To achieve this objective, the program screens the children at four different levels
Comprehensive newborn screening at Delivery points, Screening for visible birth defects in newborns by ASHA during home visitation, children (6 weeks to 6 years) bi-annually screening at Anganwadis and children (6 years to 18 years) screening at government and Government aided schools once a year.
KK Tripathy, Economic Advisor, MoHFW; Cynthia McCaffrey; Representative of UNICEF India; Dr Roderico H Ofrin, WHO Representative to India and senior officials from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare were also present on the occasion.

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