Maternal, child health not impacted by COVID-19: health authorities

Updated: Jul 13, 2020 Print
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The overall maternal and child health situation across the country is stable despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 epidemic, the National Health Commission said on July 11.

Song Li, deputy director of the commission's maternal and child health department, said China has taken a series of steps to ensure provision of essential maternal and newborn health services, and availability of medical services for children amid the domestic outbreak.

"During the height of the epidemic, the commission guided local authorities to form treatment networks designed for pregnant women infected with the virus and appointed designated hospitals," she said during a news conference held by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council.

"As we have entered a stage of implementing regular disease control work, we are now requiring maternal and child health institutions to enforce triage procedures and standard prevention measures, enhance testing capability, curb hospital-acquired infections while restoring normal medical services."

As of recently, China has 26,000 midwifery institutions, more than 200,000 obstetricians and 180,000 midwives. Areas from county-level to provincial-level across the country have all set up facilities devoted to receiving seriously ill pregnant or new mothers, according to Song.

The outbreak has also prompted medical institutions to adopt online tools, including mobile applications and WeChat groups, to facilitate staggered hospital visits, avoid gathering and reduce waiting time, she added.

In terms of promoting the health of infants and young children, local health institutions are required to offer regular health check-ups for all aged six and under, and evaluate their psychological, behavioral and physical development. Digital tools and education campaigns have also been employed, Song said.

As for the widely watched issue of mother-to-child transmission of the virus during pregnancy, Zhao Yangyu, head of the obstetrics department of Peking University Third Hospital, said there isn't sufficient evidence to support fetal transmission.

Pregnant women infected with the virus usually experience symptoms of the same severity as normal patients and their condition after being cured of the disease is stable, she added.

"The key is to go for multi-disciplinary treatment methods. Though we generally prioritize the health of mothers, it is believed that regular treatment practice against the infection is safe to newborns," she said.

This Saturday also marks the 31st World Population Day. This year's theme is "putting the brakes on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls."

Babatunde Ahonsi, China representative of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said during the conference that China has made great efforts in containing COVID-19 outbreak and is watchful of its resurgence.

Worldwide, however, lockdown persists in some regions and their health systems are coping with increased burden, which resulted in sidelining sexual and reproductive health services and rising incidence of gender-based violence, he said.

"UNFPA projects that COVID-19 will reduce by at least one-third of global progress toward ending preventable maternal deaths, unmet need for family planning, gender-based violence or harmful practices against women and girls in this decade," Ahonsi said, calling for concerted efforts to protecting the health of women and girls.

He also stressed that about 70 percent of global health workers are female and it is of great importance to equip them with protective equipment that fit their sizes and offer essential hygiene and sanitary items.

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