Elimination of sickle cell disease, integral part of achieving holistic vision of health for all: Dr VK Paul

New Delhi [India], February 28 (ANI): Elimination of Sickle Cell Disease is an integral part of achieving the holistic vision of health for all in India, said Dr V K Paul, Member Health, Niti Aayog on Monday.

VK Paul addressed the Post Budget Webinar ‘Leaving No Citizen Behind’ in the presence of Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Paul said, "we have to make a collation at the ground level that connects each and every stakeholder. We need to make this as Jan Andolan to reach the last mile".

In resonance with this, he emphasized the need to generate awareness of Sickle Cell Disease wherein ‘opportunity testing’ is encouraged, as it would expedite treatment for those already suffering from the disease.

He emphasized the role of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in community mobilization and stakeholder collaboration in defining the medium and modes for reaching affected tribal areas.

He said, "it needs to be widely known that Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana provides full treatment for Sickle Cell Disease, free of cost".

Dr Paul backed the forming of healthcare professional partnerships that would facilitate wide assimilation and sharing of knowledge on a nationwide scale.

He stressed the importance of incorporating pregnancy screening as well as easy accessibility of Hydroxy urea and pneumococcal vaccine.

Reiterating the need for collective action, Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary said "employing a whole of government, whole of society approach is essential for eliminating this disease from the nation within a defined timeframe".

He elaborated that the portal on Sickle Cell Disease Management has already been established and a mobile application is also underway for which the training and orientation have commenced for state governments.

Bhushan said, "it is imperative to define a framework for time-bound implementation on a state, block and district level to ensure last-mile delivery at the grassroots level".

He further added, "ICMR has conducted a health technology assessment for existing point-of-care tests that have been manufactured in India, endorsing their efficacy. This has been followed by onboarding of state governments on these point-of-care tests, their rates, and the possible symptoms that may be prevalent with the targeted group of 7 crore people for whom screening will be done."Reiterating the role of the ministry, the Health Secretary stated that the Ministry of Health will support the state governments through National Health Mission providing financial support.

"The state governments can choose the level of screening i.e., one level or two levels of screening that they deem fit. Additionally, the health ministry has appointed ICMR, AIIMS, and medical colleges as nodal agencies for all states as a point of reference regarding technical guidance," he said.

R Jaya, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs mentioned that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs will delve into the outreach aspect of the mission including communications with stakeholders, developing guidelines for the training of trainers, and for awareness generation, non-medical care of patients and genetic counselling.

She said, "Health needs and health care of the tribal population is to be understood socio-culturally" hence advocacy of early management practices, collaborations with Gram Sabha, community mobilization, and translation of content into tribal languages will additionally serve to enhance the reach of the mission."Through a detailed presentation, a granular detail analysis of disease burden, objectives, strategies, approaches like universal screening and awareness generation in collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, diagnostics and treatment, comprehensive care of new-born with Sickle Cell Disease, universal screening and early diagnosis, Sickle Cell Portal, steps taken with integration of AYUSH, the role of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the role of ICMR, Department of Biotech and other research institutions, Role of AIIMS and other medical colleges as Centres of Excellence, Role of Other Ministries/Dept. of National Sickle Cell Anemia Mission was presented.

Senior officials from the government, representatives from WHO, UNICEF, UIDB, civil society organizations, and healthcare provider organizations were also in attendance for this webinar. (ANI)