China prevents birth defect to safeguard health at start of life
Updated: July 10, 2024 21:48 Xinhua

BEIJING, July 10 -- China has consistently worked to safeguard the health of newborns, leading to a significant decrease in infant and child mortality attributed to birth defects.

Given the varied disease types and complex pathogenesis associated with birth defects, early prevention and treatment are crucial to mitigating risks from the outset.

China has seen expanded coverage of medical screening for birth defects, with incidences of pre-pregnancy checks and pregnancy screenings reaching 96.9 percent and 91.3 percent, respectively, nationwide, according to the top health authority in the run-up to World Population Day on Thursday.

Earlier data from the National Health Commission (NHC) showed that the infant mortality rate and the death rate for children aged under five caused by birth defects have both declined by over 30 percent over the past five years.

In 2023, the general mortality rate among the two groups came down to 4.5 per 1,000 and 6.2 per 1,000, respectively, indicating improvement in newborn health, according to the NHC.

Efforts have also been made to ensure early detection and treatment for newborns with birth defects, including the promotion of screening services for phenylketonuria, an inherited metabolic disease that can lead to growth retardation. Now the services are available nationwide for all newborns.

"If children with this disease consume special milk powder in time, it can effectively alleviate intellectual impairment, allowing most to reach a normal level of intelligence," said Shen Haiping, an NHC official.

Additionally, a central public fund initiative, launched in 2014, has provided over 81,000 times of financial assistance to children suffering from birth defects across the country.

According to a plan on enhancing birth defect prevention released by the NHC in August 2023, by 2027, the infant mortality and death rate among children aged under five caused by birth defects will further decrease below 1 per 1,000 and 1.1 per 1,000, respectively.

With a shrinking newborn population and expanding aging population, China sees birth defect prevention crucial for improving the health of newborns.

Shen said future efforts will focus on expanding inclusive and accessible prevention services while personnel training in this field will be strengthened to ensure healthy childbearing.

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