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Prevention Against Thalassemia: Health dept initiates ‘community identification’ plan, to rope in NGOs

“The prevalence is high among the Thakker community and that is the reason we are undertaking special awareness campaigns in this community”— Prafful Joshi, Thalassemics Gujarat, NGO

Written by RITU SHARMA | Ahmedabad | Published: July 4, 2015 3:13 am

As per the latest prevention measure for the inherited blood disorder thalassemia, the health department has zeroed in on certain communities in the state.

With a prevalence percentage of six to eight times more than the state average, the health department has chalked out a detailed plan starting from identification, awareness and counselling of certain communities that include Bhanushali, Bhatiya and Lohana.

Going by the records available with the health department, the prevalence percentage of thalassemia is at a rate of 8.1, 7.9 and 6.5% in the Thakker community that is sub categorised as Bhanushali (Kutch), Bhatiya (Kutch) and Lohana (Saurashtra) communities, respectively against a state average that varies between 1 – 2.5% in the state population. These include both the types of genetic blood disorders of major and minor thalassemia.

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“After consultation with various health experts, an awareness module on thalassemia has been prepared for certain communities in the state that has been identified as carrier of this genetic blood disorder,” said health commissioner J P Gupta.  The action plan against thalassemia does not conclude at the identification and awareness but extends to treatment and prevention through marriage counselling and even abortion where required among these communities, added Gupta.

The health department has an estimated population of nearly 8,000 adults and 5,000 children suffering from thalassemia major. The department also has plans to rope in blood banks and NGOs working on thalassemia to help in preparing a comprehensive data of patients for further analysis.

Agreeing on the higher prevalence among certain communities, the chairman of the NGO Thalassemics Gujarat Prafful Joshi said, “The prevalence is certainly on a higher side among the Thakker community and that is the reason we have started undertaking special awareness campaigns in this community.”

With such a prevalence of thalassemia in the state, this year, bone marrow transplantation has been introduced under the state government’s school health programme that is undertaken jointly by the education and health and family welfare departments. Under this programme, this bone marrow stem cell transplantation was conducted on three children, last month.

The community involvement is to start at the micro-level by roping in the community health workers, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) .

“The awareness and prevention is carried out in villages with the help of trained ASHA workers. The identified suspects are then referred to PHCs and CHC,” revealed a health official.

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