DOH offers expanded newborn screening

By Connie Calipay LEGAZPI CITY --- The Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol on Tuesday encouraged parents of newborn babies to avail of the Expanded Newborn Screening (NBS) program for early detection of disorders that can lead to mental retardation or even death. Dr. Rita Mae Ang-Bon, DOH head of Family and Health Cluster in the region, underscored the importance of the expanded program, which can detect more disorders than the standard NBS. “The standard NBS covers six disorders -- congenital hypothyroidism (CH), congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), phenylketonuria (PKU), glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, galactosemia (GAL) and maple syrup urine disease (MSUD), while the expanded NBS can detect more than 20 disorders such as hemoglobinopathies, disorders of amino acid and organic acid metabolism, disorders of fatty acid oxidation, disorders of carbohydrate metabolism, disorders of biotin metabolism and cystic fibrosis,” she said. Babies must undergo screening within 24 hours after birth using the heel-prick method. Ang-Bon said that the NBS for six disorders, which costs P550, is included in the newborn care package for Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) members. The Expanded NBS, on the other hand, covers full complement of disorders and costs P1,500. “At present, there is an ongoing discussion with PHIC to increase the subsidy for expanded newborn screening,” she said. Ang-Bon added that children born with congenital metabolic disorders look “normal” at birth. With newborn screening, disorders can be detected even before the symptoms manifest. “Babies with positive results must be referred to a specialist for confirmatory testing,” she added. DOH-Bicol will hold a “Reunion of Saved Babies” on Oct. 26 to show parents the living proofs that NBS can saves lives and encourage them to continuously comply with the treatment regimen for children with disorders, and to recognize stakeholders that support patients.