Free checks for premature babies

The Health Services Authority will offer free developmental checks next week for babies that were born prematurely.

The checks are available to all pre-term babies born before 34 weeks, and who are not yet 18 months old and not actively receiving therapy on a regular basis, according to a press release from the HSA.

The checks are part of the health authority’s initiatives to commemorate World Prematurity Day, which focuses on raising awareness for pre-term babies and their families.

One in 10 babies worldwide is born pre-term, which means born before 37 weeks, the release states.

To raise awareness about the importance of early intervention for pre-term babies, speech and language pathologist Faith Gealey, pediatric physiotherapist Maggie Tomlin and occupational therapist Rosemary North will provide free screenings on Monday, Nov. 20, at the Hibiscus Conference Room at the Cayman Islands Hospital from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1-3 p.m. Before the screening, pediatrician and neonatologist Sara Watkin will make a presentation from 9-10 a.m. Members of the public are invited.

“Our goal with these screenings is to target premature babies in the community who are not receiving any intervention and assess them holistically as a multidisciplinary team. This process not only can help parents understand how their child is developing, but also helps us as clinicians to be aware of the current needs in the community so that we can plan our services effectively,” Ms. Gealey said.

She added, “Premature babies are at a high risk for developmental difficulties simply because they have not had as much time in the womb to develop their bodies and their brains. Very often people think of babies and can’t imagine that there is a need for any type of therapeutic intervention, however, early monitoring and intervention is the key element in ensuring that premature babies develop adequately. When it comes to premature babies, prevention is always better than the cure.”

According to the World Health Organization, 15 million babies are born prematurely each year and more than a million die as a result. Babies who survive often have lifelong health problems, such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities.

To book an appointment for Nov. 20, email [email protected]