Publication Date: 
Tue, 2010-09-28 00:56

“The service which was launched in 2005 in 24 hospitals and 25 pediatric clinics will be extended to all government hospitals with trained staff,” Dr. Ziad Al-Memish, deputy minister of health for preventive medicine, told coordinators of the National Coordinating Committee for Screening of Newborns on Monday.
Al-Memish was addressing officials to chalk out the program’s future strategies. The meeting was also attended by Dr. Mohammed Al-Saeedi, director general of the nationwide program.
The Ministry of Health launched the program four years ago following a royal decree to detect congenital diseases at an early stage to reduce disability among children and relieve pressure from charities that care for disabled children in the Kingdom. Infants are, as part of the program, tested for 16 common congenital diseases that are found in the Kingdom.
Al-Memish said doctors, nurses and lab technicians will be trained to identify diseases among newborns using advanced medical apparatus in government hospitals.
Al-Saeedi said the training programs will be conducted using state-of-the-art audio-visual aids to make learning effective.
According to Ministry of Health statistics, the Kingdom has the highest rate of disability-causing diseases at birth, as the ratio is one in 1,000, while in other countries, like the US, Germany and Australia, the ratio is 1 in 4,000, and in Japan 1 in 7,000.
The Prince Salman Center for Disability Research in coordination with the Ministry of Health screens newborns for 16 different diseases and helps scientists and researchers treat hereditary diseases.
The program, which emerged from a project established in the late 1980s, is distinguished for its research on common hereditary diseases in the Kingdom and Middle East which are usually attributed to the high rate of consanguineous marriages.
In August 2005, the Prince Salman Center set up an early screening program that examines all newborns in more than 30 major maternity wards across the Kingdom. According to Dr. Sultan Al-Sudairy, the executive director of the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research, early and continuous screening are the best means to better understand the types of disabilities and challenges faced by the disabled in the Kingdom.
“Through thorough scientific research, the centers work as a first line of defense against many hereditary diseases and contribute effectively in saving many children from becoming disabled,” said Al-Sudairy, adding that physicians in the Kingdom face many difficulties in treating children with mental disabilities that result from diseases which, if detected as early as 72 hours post delivery, could be treated effectively.
The program aims to screen 300,000 newborn babies in the future.

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