Premarital tests to check hereditary blood diseases

MUSCAT, May 7 – The Ministry of Health (MOH), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, is expanding the hereditary blood disease medical check-ups intended for premarital tests now to include 11th grade students in the Sultanate’s schools. Students shall be examined at the primary healthcare institutions in coordination with school administrations making sure that the student must carry out check-ups before moving to the 12th grade. The percentage of children born with genetic diseases and congenital malformations is at 7 per cent, the percentage of people with sickle cell anaemia is 0.3 per cent, and those with thalassemia are 0.08 per cent. The current numbers in the Sultanate are estimated at 6,000 with sickle cell anaemia and 2,000 with thalassemia.

The Ministry of Health represented by Woman and Child Health Department launched on Sunday the National Campaign for Hereditary Blood Diseases Detection under the auspices of Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, in the presence a number of under-secretaries and senior officials. The ministry has been taking efforts to promote the detection programme for hereditary blood diseases at all heath institutions particularly primary healthcare centres with the aim of preventing the prevalence of hereditary blood diseases among the community and reducing child mortality rates due to these diseases.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Saeed al Lamki, Director-General of Primary Healthcare, reviewed studies on hereditary blood diseases prepared by specialists on the rate of thalassemia and sickle cell anemia in the Sultanate.
Dr Al Lamki said that despite the development of the healthcare system in the Sultanate the numbers are high. He emphasised that the ministry as a result has adopted premarital examination and genetic counselling programme as one of preventive measures that limit the spread of genetic diseases, These programmes are included in the ministry’s 7th, 8th, and 9th five-year plans.
Dr Al Lamki said that students whose results come up as a carrier of the disease will be transferred to a geneticist with his/her guardian to receive counselling.
They will be informed of the significance of the result, and direct them to consider it when deciding to marry in future, since these diseases are transmitted genetically to children if the other party is also a carrier of the gene.
Professor Salam al Kindi, hematologist at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH), elaborated further on the burden resulting from the hereditary blood diseases on individual, family and community, and suggested preventive procedures.
Dr Fatima al Hanai, Director of Woman and Child Health spoke of the working manual for health workers in the field of premarital hereditary blood diseases detection that involved the ministry’s policy, the services provided, medical examinations and counselling.
Dr Al Hanai pointed out that the department training plan regarding hereditary blood diseases detection programme as well as the media plan are aimed at raising community awareness on the importance of detection.
The service is available in most of the primary healthcare centres in the governorates.
The plan also aims at promoting the collaboration between various sectors to combine efforts and utilise the available resources to achieve best results in mitigating the spread of genetic diseases.
The event highlighted the role of the National Youth Commission in promoting premarital examination programme by launching Youth and Healthy Life project.
The programme further included launching of a working manual for healthcare providers in the field of hereditary blood diseases detection that contains the ministry’s policy, the services, medical tests and counselling.

Lakshmi Kothaneth