BEIJING, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- More than 6 million Chinese children in poverty-ridden areas have benefited from neonatal screening programs, the National Health Commission said Wednesday.
It is estimated that 5.6 percent of newborns have birth defects in China. Data from the China Disabled Persons' Federation suggests that about 900,000 babies are born with birth defects every year.
"Birth defects have become the most difficult challenge to resolve through healthcare in poverty reduction efforts," said Zeng Yixin, vice director of the National Health Commission.
The cases where people fall into poverty or fall back to poverty because of catching diseases remained high for many years, Zeng said.
The commission has provided free services such as pre-pregnancy health checks, nutritional information and neonatal screening in impoverished areas.
The health level of women and children in these areas has significantly improved, said Zeng. The occurrence rate of neural tube defects has decreased from 8.18 per 10,000 births in 2006 to 2.01 per 10,000 in 2016. A total of 23,000 people with congenital heart disease have received special care.
Impoverished population will enjoy priority for free prenatal screening and diagnosis, and candidates from impoverished areas will enjoy priority in healthcare training, Zeng said.