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How is India addressing sickle cell anemia??

The Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) conducted an assessment of the diagnostic tests to be used to screen a target group of seven crore people while Mr. Bhushan was addressing a post – Budget webinar titled 'Leaving no citizen behind.' India has a whole -proof plan for tackling inherited sickle cell anemia; the Central Government may soon initiate the testing of tribal people who are below 40 years. Mr. Bhushan added that the Ministry of Health would support the state governments through National Health Mission to provide them with financial support.


The State Governments can choose the screening level, i.e., one story or two screening groups, as it fits them. Additionally,  the Health Ministry has appointed ICMR, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and other medical colleges as nodal agencies for all states as a refernce points for technical guidance. 


The National Health Mission has estimated a cost of Rs. 542. 5 crores for the screening exercise. The  official portal on sickle cell disease management has already been established, and a mobile application is also underway for which the training and orientation have been commenced for state governments. 


Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease it runs from generation to generation,  and the people who have this disease inherit two faulty genes, hemoglobin S one from each parent; a person who has inherited the sickle cell traits they have one defective gene. People with these traits are generally healthy, whereas hemoglobin S changes flexible red blood cells into rigid sickle-shaped cells, which can block blood flow and lead to pain and organ damage. 


According to the estimates published by National Health Mission (NHM), there are approximately 15 lakh sickle cell affected patients in India V.K. Paul, Advisor (Health), Niti Aayog stated, “It needs to be widely known that the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana provides full treatment for sickle cell disease, free of cost." Dr. Paul advocated forming a healthcare professional partnership that would easily facilitate wide assimilations and knowldege sharing nationwide.

 R. Jaya, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs,  mentioned that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs would keep an outreach on the aspect of this mission, including communication with the stakeholders, developing guidelines for training of trainers, awareness generation, non-medical care patients, and genetic counseling. 



The overall aim is to raise pre-marital counseling to the vulnerable population about the risk of having a child positive for sickle cell anemia if the couple is already affected by sickle cell anemia. For this, the Union Health Ministry, along with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs,  has prepared a roadmap to screen approx. 7crore tribal people less than 40 years of age.

For 200 districts where many cases are reported first screening would start from Chhattisgarh in the coming days. This is depicted as a backdrop in the Union Budget of 2023 presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman,  announcing a mission for eliminating sickle cell anemia by the year 2047. In his speech Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Health Minister, added that "the government will provide cards to the tribal people below 40 years of age to determine  their sickle cell anemia and its status. The card will also hold pre - marital  counseling for people at risk.

If they marry another sickle cell anemia affected patient and they would likely have a child affected with sickle cell disease." This screening aims to reduce the prevalence of this disease in the country. The Finance Minister stated in her budget speech that "this program will entail awareness creation and universal screening of 7 crore people in 0- 40 years in affected tribal areas and counseling will be provided.


Dr. Paul emphasized the need to generate awareness of sickle cell disease wherein 'opportunity testing' is encouraged. It would expedite treatment for those who have already suffered from this disease. He emphasized the role of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in community mobilization and stakeholder collaboration in defining the medium and modes for reaching affected tribal areas on a mass scale.

The screening will be done using the rapid “point of care, a histological test for which a person will have to give blood doctors said that Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a common blood disorder with a high prevalence, especially in the central and western regions of the country. It poses a considerable health burden and a threat to survival.


Through a detailed presentation, granular detail analysis of a disease burden, objectives, strategies, approaches like universal screening and awareness generation in collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, diagnostics, and treatment, comprehensive care for new-born with Sickle Cell Disease, steps taken for integration of AYUSH, senior officials from the government and representatives from WHO, UNICEF, UIDB, civil society organizations, and healthcare provider organizations were also in attendance for this discussion and conclave. 

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