How a simple blood test is changing lives
Angola has one of the world’s highest rates of sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder affecting the red blood cells. What the country didn’t have were the resources to screen for the disease and provide lifesaving treatment.
A baby with sickle cell disease is born every hour in Angola. To aid its children, the Angolan government asked Chevron, which has operated there for more than 50 years, to help. Chevron, in turn, invited Texas Children’s to share its expertise in sickle cell disease, pediatric medicine, operating successfully in resource-limited settings, and educating medical professionals.
In 2011, Chevron, Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine and the Angola Ministry of Health launched a partnership that is changing and saving lives through a simple blood test — that’s all it takes to determine whether a child has sickle cell or not.
Since that time, more than 33,000 babies have been screened, and more than 600 have been diagnosed. Following diagnosis, a health care team works to educate parents and implement easy, inexpensive intervention — early treatment that prevents the most severe and life-threatening complications including bacterial infections and stroke. Angolan medical students and health professionals are also being trained to help ensure expanded screening and treatment.
“Without newborn screening and simple interventions, a majority of these babies will die before age 2. In the U.S., all babies are tested at birth for sickle cell disease, and as a result, more than 95 percent of affected children survive to be adults. Thanks to Chevron’s generosity and partnership, more of Angola’s children will do the same,” said Dr. Mark Kline, Texas Children’s physician-in-chief.
Chevron has pledged its support for Texas Children’s Angola Sickle Cell Initiative — a first-of-its-kind program on the continent — with a commitment of $4 million over four years. “Chevron’s support in this area provides a critical new dimension in our ongoing efforts to improve child and maternal health and help build healthy communities in the places where we operate,” said Ali Moshiri, president, Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company.