Texas Children's Center for Global Health celebrates 1-year anniversary of successful sickle cell disease screening program in Angola


HOUSTON - (July 19, 2012) - Exactly one year after launching the Angolan Sickle Cell Initiative, Texas Children's Center for Global Health is proud to announce that more than 16,000 babies have been screened for this once-overlooked killer of children in Africa.

Encouraged by the First Lady of Angola, and aided by the vision and support of Mr. Ali Moshiri, president, Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company and Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital and chairman of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), the Angolan sickle cell initiative was launched in March 2011 by the Texas Children's Center for Global Health. With financial support from Chevron Corporation, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Angola, this bold initiative quickly reached fruition on July 19, 2011 when babies born at Lucrecia Paim Maternity Hospital in the Luanda province became the first Angolan infants to ever receive newborn screening for sickle cell disease. This landmark program in Angola serves as a bold step forward in their efforts to improve healthcare in the country.

"Until last year, no newborn infant was tested for sickle cell disease in Angola," explains Dr. Russell E. Ware, Director of the Texas Children's Center for Global Health and a professor of pediatrics at BCM. "Sadly, many die in the first two years of life from preventable infections related to the disease, because they are never properly diagnosed. But after witnessing the success of our first year screening babies for sickle cell in Luanda, we know we can tip the scales and make a sea change of difference for these babies."

Angola has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, and each year, approximately 2 percent of babies (close to 10,000) are born with sickle cell disease. Of these babies, the majority die before they reach 5 years-old. With proper intervention, almost all babies with sickle cell disease will reach adulthood, as has been proven in the United States, where newborn infants are tested soon after birth and given access to proper treatment. Thanks to the Angolan Sickle Cell Initiative, more than16,000 babies have already been tested, and several hundred babies with sickle cell disease have been identified.

"The goal of the Sickle Cell program is to not only provide screening, diagnosis and care for this neglected population of children, but to also develop a training and education program that will be sustainable from within Angola and easily replicated in countries that need it the most," says Meg Ferris, PhD, MPH, administrative director Texas Children's Center for Global Health.

Angolan obstetrical nurses have been trained to collect the blood samples, Angolan laboratory technicians have become expert in diagnostic testing, and Angolan pediatric nurses and doctors have learned to provide life-saving medical interventions, all important facets to making the program sustainable from within the country.

Over the next 12 months, the program will expand to a second Angolan province to screen even more babies and save more lives. In addition, plans are in the works to expand the program into more countries in Africa and South America.

For more information http://globalhealth.texaschildrens.org/.

Further information on the Sickle Cell Disease Screening Program

About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Center for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, a second community hospital planned to open in 2017. The organization also created the nation’s first HMO for children, has the largest pediatric primary care network in the country and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to www.texaschildrens.org. Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at twitter.com/texaschildrens.