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Perspectives on Building Sustainable Newborn Screening Programs for Sickle Cell Disease: Experience from Tanzania

Published: 26 February 2021
 by  MDPI AG
International Journal of Neonatal Screening , Volume 7; doi:10.3390/ijns7010012

Abstract: The prevalence of sickle cell disease is high in Africa, with significant public health effects on the affected countries. Many of the countries with the highest prevalence of the disease also have poor health care systems and a high burden of infectious diseases with many other competing health care priorities. Although considerable efforts have been made to implement newborn screening for sickle cell disease programs in Africa, coverage is still low. Tanzania has one of the highest birth prevalence of children with sickle cell disease in Africa. In 2015, the country implemented a pilot project for Newborn Screening for Sickle Cell Disease to assess feasibility. Several efforts have been made afterwards to continue providing the screening services as well as related comprehensive care services. Using qualitative methods, we conducted in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with policy makers (n = 4), health care providers (n = 21) and families (n = 15) to provide an analysis of their experiences and perspectives on efforts to expand and sustain newborn screening for sickle cell disease and related comprehensive care services in the country. Thematic content analysis was used to analyze the data through the framework analysis method. The findings have demonstrated both the opportunities and areas that need addressing in the implementation and sustainability of the services in low resource settings. A key area of strengthening is full integration of the services in countries’ health care systems to facilitate the coverage, accessibility and affordability of the services. Although the coverage of newborn screening services for sickle cell disease is still low, efforts at the local level to sustain the implementation of the programs and related comprehensive care services are encouraging and can be used as a model for other programs implemented in low resources settings.
Keywords: sustainability / Africa / Tanzania / sickle cell disease / newborn screening / low resources

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