Did you know that the first week of October is celebrated as National Newborn Screening Awareness Week in the country? We’re doing our part in bringing attention to the importance of getting newborns tested for conditions that, when left untreated, may be fatal or lead to disabilities.
Under the Newborn Screening Act of 2004, a national newborn screening system was implemented to ensure access to newborn screening and to promote children’s rights to health and full development.
From the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) enhanced Newborn Care Package to the tests included in the procedure, here’s the lowdown on newborn screenings in the Philippines.
What is a newborn screening for?
Makati Medical Center describes newborn screening as a series of tests done on infants one or two days after being born. These tests check for health conditions that might not show symptoms at infancy such as genetic and metabolic abnormalities, hearing problems, specific heart problems, and other conditions that need to be addressed. Early detection allows for early treatment.
How is a newborn screening process conducted?
A newborn screening involves three tests: a blood test, a hearing test, and a pulse oximetry test.
For the blood test, which is also called a heel stick, a few drops of blood is taken from the baby’s heel 12-48 hours after birth. Parents are allowed to hold the baby during the test. The blood sample is then placed on the filter paper on the screening card and is used to check for metabolic and genetic conditions.
In the pulse oximetry test, a small and painless sensor is placed on the newborn’s skin to measure how much oxygen is in the baby’s blood. It screens for heart conditions called Critical Congenital Heart Defects. The test is done when the baby is at least 24 hours old.
The hearing test can either be an Auditory Brain Stem Response (ABR) test or an Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test. Both tests involve playing sounds in the baby’s ears using miniature earphones to screen for hearing problems. Quick and painless, these are usually conducted while a newborn, who is at least 12 hours old, is sleeping.
How much does it cost and is it covered by PhilHealth?
PhilHealth introduced its enhanced Newborn Care Package (NCP) in 2019. It increased the amount of coverage from P1,750 to P2,950, which pays for essential newborn care and supplies such as vitamin K, eye ointment, vaccines against hepatitis B and tuberculosis; expanded newborn screening test, newborn hearing screening test, and fees for attending professionals.
Newborns are eligible for the NCP if either of their parents are eligible to avail of the benefits, if they were born in accredited facilities that perform deliveries, and if their parents availed of the services upon delivery.
Parents with newborns that weren’t born in accredited facilities are still encouraged to contact health service providers to get the procedure. The cost of an expanded newborn screening is P1,750. It is also important to note that some babies require test repeats, depending on the results.
For more information on newborn screenings, you may visit the Newborn Screening Reference Center located at the University of the Philippines Manila, send them an email, or visit newbornscreening.ph.