On 26 October 2015, heel prick screening started for all newborns on St Eustatius and Saba. The screening is being coordinated by the Department of Public Health on St Eustatius in cooperation with the Queen Beatrix Medical Center, and the Department of on Saba, in cooperation with the Saba Health Care Foundation.
These organisations are working together with the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment Centre for Population Screening. The first heel pricks have already been carried out, and the blood spot cards are sent to the Netherlands for screening on 17 serious health conditions. Heel prick screening started on Bonaire on 1 January 2015 and is now a reality throughout the Dutch Caribbean.
Neonatal heel prick screening is done to detect rare but mostly inherited diseases. Shortly after birth, a newborn receives a heel prick, and the blood spot is screened for 17 serious health conditions. Early treatment of such conditions can prevent or reduce serious disabilities which can affect the physical and mental development of the child.
Introduction of heel prick screening contributes to maternal and child health in the Dutch Caribbean. At the request of the Dutch Caribbean (Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba), the Dutch Minister for Health, Minister Schippers, took the decision to introduce neonatal heel prick screening. The Minister’s decision was based on the pilot screening in the Dutch Caribbean that was set up by the RIVM Centre for Population Screening. The pilot was carried out in close cooperation with contact persons in the Dutch Caribbean and involved professional bodies and implementation organisations in the Netherlands.