Most babies in Ghana are not screened for inherited congenital anomalies. These conditions go unnoticed and lead to catastrophic health outcomes such as intellectual disabilities, severe illness, or premature deaths. This project seeks to screen 500 babies for more than 50 inherited congenital disorders in Ghana. When detected early, these babies can benefit from early intervention to reduce developmental disabilities, infant morbidity and mortality.
Ghana does not have a national newborn screening policy for congenital disorders even though data from WHO published in 2017 indicates that Congenital Anomalies is the 13th leading cause of death and disabilities. This impacts negatively on the society by causing financial, psychological and physical burden on the baby, their families and the entire community. Most of these conditions are inherited and not apparent at birth unless clinician make the efforts to screen for them.
We have partnered with some laboratories to extend the screening of more than 50 inherited disorders to babies within 24 to 72 hours of a child's birth. Few drops of blood will be sent to the laboratory to test for biochemical and genetic markers that reveal hidden congenital disorders. If such markers are found, the parents and physicians will be notified. In this way, hidden inherited conditions can be detected early and the baby can receive immediate attention.
There will be follow-up programs that will arrange for diagnostic tests to confirm the newborn screening results and refer the child to a treatment center to provide access to the essential medical services needed to minimize the effects of the underlying disorder. This will help to prevent long term disabilities and reduce infant deaths. Outcomes of this program may potentially lead to the development and implementation of a national newborn policy in Ghana.