A universal screening programme for diseases and deficiencies to cover 15 crore children is on the anvil
With a view to ensure a healthier childhood, the government proposes to introduce a ‘Universal Diseases and Deficiency Screening Programme’ for children in the 0-6 age group.
“We propose to introduce universal screening for all children for disease, disability and deficiency which should be followed up by free treatment wherever required,” Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, announced recently.
The programme, likely to be rolled out early next year, aims to cover approximately 15 crore children across the country. The focus of the programme would be pre-school children as those who are in schools are already covered under the School Health Programme.
“We are working out the modalities of the scheme. As soon as a protocol is in place, we will roll it out,” said P.K. Pradhan, Union Health Secretary.
Children will be tested for eight diseases including vision, mental aptitude, physical health (Body Mass Index), disabilities and common deficiencies. However, there is no provision for pathological tests in the programme.
Thanks to the Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare already has a list of infants. Tracing them now is easy since each one is enrolled under the immunization programme. The mothers also come for post natal care.
“We are working out the modalities of the scheme to ensure that all children are covered. To achieve this, we will have to organise outreach camps to cover out-of -school children. The anganwadi centres are to play the most important role in making the programme a success,” Mr Pradhan added.
This time round, it would be the auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) who would be trained for conducting the screenings since the programme would run parallel to the Integrated Child Development Scheme. Earlier it was accredited social health activists who played the role.
The government is already running a diabetes screening programme for children in 100 districts on a pilot basis. So far, 1.7 crore children have been screened in 21 states.