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Explained: How Karnataka plans to screen 1.5 crore children ahead of possible third wave of Covid-19

According to Health and Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar, the ‘Arogya Nandana’ initiative will be launched by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai within a week.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal , Edited by Explained Desk | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 20, 2021 8:53:19 am
A healthcare worker collects swab sample of a boy in Bengaluru. (Photo: PTI)

The Karnataka government has decided to test various health parameters of its over 1.5 crore population of children ahead of an anticipated third wave of Covid-19. According to Health and Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar, the ‘Arogya Nandana’ initiative will be launched by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai within a week.

“While over 1.5 crore children in the state will be subjected to tests, this will help us identify children with low immunity and other co-morbidities. They will then be provided with nutritious food and supplements to boost their immunity and their health will be constantly monitored,” Sudhakar said.

Here’s more on how the government plans to implement the initiative across the state:

How will children be screened under the initiative?

With Anganwadis remaining closed, the government has come up with a micro plan including Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers and Anganwadi teachers, who have collated information on children in each village (ward in rural areas) aged up to 18. The medical officer from the concerned primary health centre along with the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) mobile team will then decide on a date and venue at each village where the health screening activity will take place.

Venues, according to officials, will range from big schools and community centres to convention centres and kalyana mantapas (marriage halls), and others that will be best available in a particular area. This is expected to be fixed by the district or taluk health officers.

How will children or their parents be informed about the camps?

Once a date and venue are fixed at a hyperlocal level, government officials will ensure the information is soon disseminated through different channels such as using danguras (beating drum making announcements), public announcement systems and loudspeakers at religious places, prior to the dates fixed for the screening.

What health parameters will be checked and recorded?

According to Dr Veena V, Deputy Director (RBSK), Directorate of Health and Family Welfare Services, the screening is expected to cover the 4Ds — defected birth, deficiencies, diseases, and developmental delay or deformity.

“Once this information is collected, the government will be aware of certain deficiencies found among children including Severe Acute Malnutrition and Moderate Acute Malnutrition. Further, those with immunocompromised and immunodeficiency conditions will also be classified so as to keep a list of children with comorbidities ready. This would be used to continue detailed monitoring of their health as well, especially when the anticipated third wave peaks,” she said.

What is the plan of action?

A “Team on Wheels” will be formed at the village/ward level comprising eight to nine persons, including two doctors, a pharmacist, an ophthalmologist, an assistant for eye screening, a medical officer from the PHC, a postgraduate paediatrician, an MBBS doctoral on rural internship and a staff nurse.

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While each health parameter will be checked, minor treatments will begin at the screening camps itself and medicines will be prescribed accordingly. Parents of children with comorbidities will be vaccinated on priority. This includes those among the tribal and migratory communities across the state as well, officials said.

Further, the Department of Women & Child Development has also been roped in to ensure nutrition supplements are distributed to those in need. “For children who need to be referred to a higher health facility, Nagu Magu ambulances (otherwise used as drop back facility for postnatal mothers and newborns from government health facilities) will be used. If more children are required to be moved to another centre, the taluk or district administration will be in charge to ensure local transport,” Dr Veena clarified.

Will Covid tests be conducted on all children?

No. Children who are symptomatic will be tested for Covid-19 using the RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen Testing methods. Further, blood glucose levels will also be tested in case a child is prone to be diabetic or with diabetes-like conditions.

How will the data collected be used?

The government hopes to prepare a comprehensive health database of children in the state through the Arogya Nandana initiative. While the tests at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic are held to encourage parents of comorbid children to move their wards to a health facility immediately when suspected of any infection, others will be made aware of getting vaccinated and keeping a close tab on each child’s health at home too.

“Further, health and district administrations will be equipped with the information to calculate and raise indents for the right medicines and to ensure distribution of them in a hassle-free manner. This would in turn expedite the response process in case a third wave hits us as well,” Dr Veena said.

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