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Ghana News

Newborn Jaundice Awareness Month Launched in Ghana to Prevent Neurological Complications

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The Paediatric Society of Ghana (PSG) has launched the 2023 “Newborn Jaundice Awareness Month” aimed at creating nationwide awareness of preventing disability and death in babies resulting from newborn jaundice. Jaundice is the yellowish discoloration of the skin and/or conjunctiva resulting from the accumulation of unconjugated bilirubin in the blood.

Neonatal jaundice is classified into physiological and pathological jaundice, with the latter being more severe and occurring within 24 hours of birth or later depending on the cause. Factors that increase the risk of severe neonatal jaundice include preterm delivery, prolonged labour, neonatal asphyxia, and acute haemolysis.

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For the most part, physiological jaundice is mild and self-limiting, occurring usually 36 hours after birth, and resolves without treatment. However, failure to identify and treat severe neonatal jaundice can result in life-threatening neurological complications, imposing a substantial burden on healthcare resources, especially in resource-limited settings.

Globally, jaundice affects about half of full-term newborns and 80 per cent of preterm newborns. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the burden of severe neonatal jaundice in 2017 by Slusher et al, indicated that the incidence of severe neonatal jaundice is reported to be highest in the Africa region, with 667.8 per 10 000 live births.

In Ghana, Dr Paulina Clara Appiah, the Deputy Director of Public Health, Bono East Region, launched the awareness month, commending the PSG for leading advocacy and awareness creation of these very serious health consequences in the country. She noted that neonatal infection could be prevented, provided there was timely and appropriate management, and urged parents to report to the facility early.

For the most part, during this one month, all communication channels available, including facility engagement at service provision points, radio, TV, social media, and community engagement, among others, will be utilized to create awareness. Health workers, including community health workers, would be trained and provided with adequate equipment for the diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Appiah also called for the need to include questions about neonatal jaundice in the Demographic and Health Survey to enable the PSG to know the burden for planning and decision-making purposes and to aid in resource allocation. She further urged the need to do some triangulation of data from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to validate the report, which currently appears to be under-reported in Midwife Form A, to enable it to address severe neonatal jaundice.

 

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