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1.5 lakh below 5 years screened so far, Ahmedabad prepares for third wave with survey to identify high-risk kids

With government health screening programmes of children taking a hit since the pandemic broke out in the state in March 2020, the district began rigorous screening of children aged upto five years from June 7 and completed on June 27.

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad |
July 8, 2021 1:36:58 am
According to a district health department official, usual tracking of children's health through school health programmes and anganwadi centres. (File)

Preparing for a possible third wave of Covid-19, Ahmedabad district will begin surveying children aged six to 17 years to identify those with compromised health status, said officials. The district has conducted a paediatric health survey of children aged upto five years.

With government health screening programmes of children taking a hit since the pandemic broke out in the state in March 2020, the district began rigorous screening of children aged upto five years from June 7 and completed on June 27.

Chintan Desai, epidemiologist with Ahmedabad district health department says, “Those identified as high-risk from this survey will be monitored and the list of children screened in this survey will also serve as the go-to list in case of a Covid-19 emergency.”

The survey was undertaken in two phases. As Desai explains, “The first phase of screening includes teams of ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers going door-to-door, screening children for cough, fever, oxygen levels, malnutrition, comorbid conditions or congenital disorders. The second phase involves further screening of those identified as ‘at risk’ in the first phase, by RBSK (Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram) doctors who will refer and manage the condition of the children accordingly.”

According to a district health department official, usual tracking of children’s health through school health programmes and anganwadi centres, had not been possible since the pandemic broke out in the state.

The initiative in Ahmedabad was started by District Collector Sandip Sagale and the then District Development Officer Arun Mahesh Babu. Babu, who has now assumed the post of Rajkot district collector, and the latter has initiated the paediatric survey in Rajkot rural, starting July 1, he told The Indian Express.

As per the terms of reference guidance document framed by the district administration, apart from checking for symptoms of Covid-19, RBSK teams have to examine for deficiencies, other comorbid conditions in children as well as record if, in the past one month, any family member of the children was diagnosed with Covid-19. The district screened 1,59,572 children in the first phase of which 1,068 were categorised as “high-risk”, said chief district health officer of Ahmedabad Satish Parmar.

“These 1,068 children included 225 severely malnourished, considered as ‘red category’, 536 identified as moderately malnourished, considered as ‘yellow category’ and 307 were identified with congenital disorders of heart, kidney, thalassemia, HIV-AIDS, diabetes etc. The second phase of screening identified 206 out of 225 severely malnourished, 367 of the 536 moderately malnourished as those who will require to be referred for further treatment,” said Parmar adding that the teams also identified 277 children with nutrient deficiencies, 119 with other diseases of congenital disorders and comorbid conditions and 24 others with disabilities or developmental disorders.

“Those identified in the severe and moderate malnutrition category will be sent to nutrition resource centres (NRC) and will be treated for their condition… We are targeting malnourished children especially because nutrition level affects the immune system response. We are targeting that within a month or so, we can at least get the ‘yellow category’ malnourished children to the required good nutrition level,” he said. Parmar said that later this week, a similar two-step surveillance for those aged six to 17 years is planned, with a timeline of nearly four weeks to complete the survey.

In the Socio-Economic Review for 2020-2,1 it was revealed that owing to closure of schools and anganwadi centres since the Covid-19 outbreak, at least eight schemes of the state government related to children’s nutrition and health, were either suspended or saw no expenditure.

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