November 08, 2007

Students to get health cards

All schoolchildren in India, above class V, will soon be screened for diseases once a year.

In a massive National School Health Programme being planned jointly by the ministries of health and HRD, children across the country will be given smart health cards containing information on their health. They will be screened by doctors, either from public or private hospitals, for blindness, deafness, dental and cardio vascular health, vitamin deficiencies and anaemia. If they are found suffering from any of them, they will be immediately referred for further treatment. The programme aims to promote health of schoolchildren, and prevent diseases by early diagnosis and treatment. Officials from both the ministries have already held talks with the next one scheduled for mid-December.

Health minister A Ramadoss said, "A deafness and speech programme will teach doctors, family members and teachers to identify children with hearing and sight problems early, before it becomes damaging. The school health programme will be a public-private partnership. The programme will be started initially in states which show interest in such a screening programme to protect the younger generation."

A similar programme is being run by state governments in Mizoram, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. "It needs to be a collective programme with states working in unison. Associations like the IMA and Dental Council of India have agreed to help us with the screening. Students would be given personal health cards, which would chart the disease history of the child concerned," Ramadoss added.

School-children will also be routinely screened for health complications like congenital heart disease and diabetes.

Risk factors like high blood pressure, hypertension and obesity among children, the primary causes behind cardio-vascular diseases (CVD), will also be identified for parents to better manage and avert impending diseases.

Nearly 10 years after the idea was first mooted, Planning Commission has approved in-principle India's first national programme for prevention and control of cardio-vascular diseases, stroke and diabetes. To be implemented and supervised by the health ministry, from mid-December, the initial phase will cost Rs 15 crore. "The success of the initial programme will help seal a total clearance from Planning Commission to the national programme. Under the programme, children will be regularly screened for diseases and risk factors. Anti-hypertensive drugs will cut down on high BP and lifestyle changes will cut down on obesity. WHO calls this programme a vital investment," a health ministry official told TOI.

The ministry has asked the plan panel to sanction Rs 1,680 crore to run the programme from 2008-2012.

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