As part of activities to mark this year’s Sickle Cell Day, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) hosted a webinar designed to raise awareness on the disorder, its treatment and management, as well as what must be done in the years ahead to improve outcomes for those living with the disorder.
At the webinar tagged: “Improving Health Outcomes for Sickle Cell Disease”, the President, ASH, Alexis Thompson, said the idea was aimed at shedding light on the global state of SCD, in order to help improve screening and early care for children in Africa living with the disorder.
According to her, “One of the greatest hurdles we face in curbing the heartbreaking rate of mortality caused by SCD in sub-Saharan Africa is lack of awareness of the condition and the simple, relatively inexpensive interventions that can save lives. It starts with early recognition, ideally through newborn screening”.
“The SCD which is an inherited chronic blood disorder affects the red blood cells, causes stroke, organ failure and sometimes, death.”
She said the number of people with SCD is expected to increase by 30 per cent by the year 2050, adding that as a way forward, she believed videos from the webinar can help dispel myths about its treatment and management.
She said that despite the ominous statistics however, there is a silver lining for persons living with the disorder.
On her part, the MPH Director, Newborn Screening and Genetics at Association of Public Health Laboratories, Jelili Ojodu, said: “Newborn screening will help allow for early identification of the disease, so that simple, cost-effective interventions can be carried out. It is important for people to know that SCD is not a death sentence and can be managed”.
Also speaking at the webinar, the MD, Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana, Kwaku-Ohene Frimpong, pointed out that, “in Ghana, we have seen that simple public health measures, especially newborn screening can help children live more normal lives. In the first 10 years of newborn screening, we made dramatic improvements in reducing sickle cell-related childhood mortality.”
Mr. Frimpong advised that such policies can be adopted across sub Saharan Africa in order to reduce the high mortality rate caused by the disease. This he said starts with eradicating the myths that surround the disease.