Implementation of hospital-based sickle cell newborn screening and follow-up programs in Haiti

Elsevier, Blood Advances, Volume 8, 9 January 2024
Alvarez O.A., Dely N.S.V., Hanna M.P., Fleur R.S., Cetoute M., Metalonis S. et al.

One in 120 children are born with sickle cell disease (SCD) in Haiti. However, health care challenges include isolated newborn screening (NBS) activities and lack of transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound to assess stroke risk. The implementation activities of the Comparative Study of Children in Haiti and Miami with Sickle Cell Disease involved both NBS and TCD ultrasound implementations at 4 Haitian clinical sites. We hypothesized that hospital-based newborn SCD screening and follow-up programs would be feasible at Haiti. A traditional NBS laboratory method with dried blood samples was performed at 3 Port-au- Prince sites, and the traditional method plus point-of-care (POC) testing was used at the 2 northern sites. The rate of clinical follow-up for newborns with SCD as the outcome for the NBS intervention was compared with that of the NBS method. The NBS programs identified SCD in 0.77% of 8224 newborns over a 24-month period. In the rural hospital assigned to the combination screening, 56% of newborns identified with POC testing returned for follow-up, compared with 0% when POC was not available (P = .044). Newborns who tested positive for SCD and children aged <6 years with SCD at the clinical sites were eligible for study follow-up. Accrual was successful: 165 participants (mean age, 42 months; 53% males; 93% hemoglobin SS) were recruited and received oral penicillin. TCD ultrasound screening was hampered by poor internet connections and trained staff leaving Haiti, with only 1 active site conducting screening. Despite challenges, the implementation of NBS and sickle cell programs in Haiti is feasible.We are in the process of understanding how to mitigate implementation limitations.