Kolkata, July 26: High-risk newborns, such as those with very low weight at birth, are more susceptible to developmental delays and subsequent disability than healthy newborns, say Indian researchers, highlighting the gap in early diagnosis in rural settings. Developmental delay refers to a child not achieving ‘developmental milestones’ at the right age. These ‘milestones’ refer to sets of functiol skills or age-specific tasks that most children can do in a certain age-range. Delays may be in physical ability or cognitive ability. Identifying such lags and intervening early can prevent disability to a large extent in children and reduce the burden in India, say experts.
“Incidence of developmental delay among high-risk newborns is significantly high with low birth weights, prematurity and neotal illnesses being major contributors,” developmental paediatrician ndita Chatterjee told IANS. For example, if the normal age-range for walking is 9 to 15 months and a child isn’t walking by 20 months then this would be considered a development delay, explained Partha De, population studies expert from Kolkata’s Indian Statistical Institute. Chatterjee said high-risk newborns are those who are vulnerable to brain damage and neuro-developmental deficits in later life. They include babies with very low birth weights (LBW), premature babies, infants with severe infections, severe jaundice or any newborn who is very sick.
“These children with developmental delay are not being diagnosed early in the rural areas, leading to developmental challenges and disability in later life,” said Chatterjee, head of the department of paediatrics, IQ City Medical College, Durgapur, West Bengal.
The experts’ observations are based on a study done in West Bengal’s Purulia district, one of the most backward and impoverished regions of the state located in the remote, tribal belt. (ians)