Free Costa Rican Neonatal ‘Heel Test’ Diagnoses and Allows Treatment for 29 Diseases

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    The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – The neonatal screening known as the “heel test” should be performed on the third or fourth day after birth, in order to increase the effectiveness of this screening, which is conducted on almost 100% of Costa Rican children.

    The director of the National Newborn Screening Program and chief of Genetics National Children’s Hospital, Dr. Manuel Saborio Rocafort, stressed the need for mothers and parents to understand the importance this test in preventing incapacitating diseases down the road.

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    Data from the National Screening Program shows that one in a thousand screening tests is positive and one of the main benefits of this program is that children who test positive are offered treatment by Costa Rican Social Security, substantially increasing their quality of life.

    According to the geneticist, using four droplets of blood extracted from the heel of newborns allows them to detect 29 different diseases including hypothyroidism, phenylketonuria, galactosemia, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, among others.

    Half of those who test positive are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but all babies are given the appropriate treatment.

    One goal of the program is to reach 100% of Costa Rican children and in this regard, Dr. Saborio Rocafort has asked people to ensure newborns receive this test, preferably between the third and fourth day after birth.

    The heel prick is free and can be performed at all institutional health facilities for both insured and uninsured people. Rocafort is determined to capture the 1% that does not receive the service.

    Daily this program screens between 300 and 400 samples.

    At this time, the about ¢1.1 billion is used to fund the program, which is one of the few in the world that has universal coverage. Only countries like Denmark, Austria, and Japan have similar programs.

    “We believe that these four drops of blood are a way to treasure life,” said Dr. Rocafort. (Crhoy)

    The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

    San Jose, Costa Rica

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