Me­dia state­ment on the first World Birth De­fects Day, 3 March 2015

Bhutan Times - - Home - By Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Re­gional Direc­tor, WHO South-East Asia Re­gional Of­fice

Pre­vent birth de­fects, pro­vide care for sur­vivors Birth de­fects are com­mon, costly and crit­i­cal health chal­lenges glob­ally and par­tic­u­larly in the South-East Asia Re­gion which re­ported 49 000 new­born deaths due to birth de­fects in 2013. But a large num­ber of th­ese deaths can be pre­vented with cost ef­fec­tive mea­sures through the ex­ist­ing health care sys­tems. The first World Birth De­fects Day is be­ing ob­served on 3 March this year to put the spot­light on this un­der-recog­nised prob­lem. On this oc­ca­sion WHO urges coun­tries to take mea­sures to pre­vent as well as min­imise the suf­fer­ings of chil­dren born with birth de­fects, with timely and ap­pro­pri­ate care.

The most com­mon birth de­fects are heart de­fects, neu­ral tube de­fects and Down’s syn­drome, with 94% of the se­vere ones oc­cur­ring in mid­dle and low re­source set­tings. In­fants who sur­vive with birth de­fects suf­fer long-term dis­abil­ity which im­pairs them, their fam­i­lies and so­ci­eties due to the so­cial and eco­nomic con­se­quences.

The prob­lem can only be ad­dressed with a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary, mul­ti­sec­toral and mul­ti­ple pro­gramme ap­proach with ser­vices in­volv­ing health, nu­tri­tion, food in­dus­try, so­cial wel­fare sec­tors and civil so­ci­ety, as mul­ti­ple fac­tors cause birth de­fects. So­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions where moth­ers are sus­cep­ti­ble to mal­nu­tri­tion, io­dine de­fi­ciency, folic acid in­suf­fi­ciency; other health con­di­tions such as obe­sity and di­a­betes; in­fec­tions like rubella; and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors like ex­po­sure to pes­ti­cides, med­i­ca­tions, al­co­hol, tobacco, are lead­ing causes of birth de­fects. Ad­vanced ma­ter­nal age causes Downs syn­drome in ba­bies while cul­tural prac­tices such as mar­riages among first cousins in­creases the risk of se­ri­ous birth de­fects.

We also need to build aware­ness among the peo­ple, the pro­gramme man­agers and health work­ers to seek and pro­vide early care for their chil­dren born with birth de­fects. Timely and ap­pro­pri­ate care can cure or min­imise the ef­fects of birth de­fects in chil­dren.

The World Birth De­fects Day is an ini­tia­tive of 12 global health or­ga­ni­za­tions to raise aware­ness about the oc­cur­rence of birth de­fects, de­velop and im­ple­ment pri­mary pre­ven­tion pro­grams, and ex­pand re­fer­ral and care ser­vices for all per­sons with birth de­fects.

Ad­dress­ing birth de­fects is a key in­ter­ven­tion to pro­vide ev­ery child best health pos­si­ble and po­ten­tial for a full and pro­duc­tive life. It is also key to re­duc­ing in­fant mor­tal­ity rate and achiev­ing the Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goal 4, to which all coun­tries are com­mit­ted.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bhutan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.