While developed nations have finalized their policies for Newborn screening (NBS) and have made NBS a nationwide public health program, the process has just started in India.
India has made significant advancements in the field of Newborn screening and is going through a progressive phase of preventive control over infant mortality and morbidity due to infections and hereditary conditions. Making NBS services more and more accessible to the Indian population would help in improving the infant mortality rate of the country.
The following steps must be taken to make NBS program a success in the country
Awareness generation: In a country like India, we still have a higher proportion of home deliveries in rural areas and early discharge from hospitals due to massive patient load. To make the NBS program a success, these problems must be taken care by generating awareness about the importance of NBS among common people, healthcare professionals, midwives etc. The general public must be made aware of NBS programs, genetic disorders, inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs), and physical and psychological benefits on timely detection of diseases.
Cost cutting: The costs borne by the beneficiaries of NBS programs must be brought down by providing tax benefits, waivers etc. to the NBS equipment importers. Additionally, policymakers must look into various options to provide NBS services at extremely subsidized rates. Lowering costs would make NBS services available for all. Alternatively, the government must launch a universal child health plan which would provide flexible payment options for NBS services.
Quality management: Quality control of the NBS services can be assured by apex bodies like the CDC and the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories. These maneuvers will help create the credibility of the tests which would ultimately deepen the trust of the masses in the NBS program.
Infrastructure upgrade: Existing healthcare infrastructure must be upgraded so that they can carry out NBS tests efficiently. Development of infrastructure could be looked after by central and the state government. Interested NGOs, willing families, corporates must also be encouraged to contribute so as to develop NBS infrastructure.
Coordination between healthcare practitioners: Healthcare practitioners of NBS labs must be connected with each other. This would facilitate better coordination among various labs in the management of confirmed cases.
Research: Research on genetics and/or congenital disorders must be encouraged. This would not only pave way for NBS advancements but it would also help in improving the infant mortality rate of the country and generating data about congenital disease trends across the country.
Effective implementation of policies: Government should formulate policies and establish proper protocols for neonatal screening methods. Stringent policies must be made in lines with international guidelines. Already existing policies must be implemented effectively. Any loophole or shortcomings in the existing policies must be fulfilled. Additionally, NBS laboratories must follow international standards so that the test results are accepted throughout the world.