The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss was invited to the first Newborn Health Screening Congress at the Mongolia Parliament. Several hundred people representing various stakeholder groups (medical professionals, economists, policy makers, insurance representatives, NGOs, and government officials) involved in Mongolia newborn screening programs gathered these past two days to discuss four health screenings – including hearing loss – with the aim of helping to shape newborn health policy in Mongolia.
The Global Foundation was recognized for its work and leadership in the area of hearing screening in Mongolia. Over the last two years, the Global Foundation helped the country establish newborn hearing screening at all the birthing hospitals in the capital of Ulaanbaatar for the first time. The director of the National Center for Maternal and Child Health reported at the Congress that as a result of our efforts, they were able to screen 33,000 newborns in 2018. This is a tri-fold increase from 2016 when just one hospital had the equipment and capability to screen for hearing loss.
The Global Foundation invited Jane Madell, a renowned pediatric audiologist, to join Executive Director Paige Stringer and the other presenters covering the topic of hearing loss at the congress. The head ENT physician of the National Center for Maternal and Child Health led things off with an overview of statistics about the hearing screening effort and challenges. Then a cochlear implant surgeon from Korea presented. Paige Stringer followed and talked not only about hearing screening in Mongolia and the Global Foundation’s work there, but also how there are other very key elements that babies and children with hearing loss need to be successful (hearing technology, early intervention, etc). Jane Madell wrapped the session up with a wonderful talk that dived more deeply into the hearing technology, audiology, and early intervention needs. It was a well-rounded group presentation that covered the key notes on pediatric hearing loss.
The day after the Congress, we were invited to the countryside for more conversation about screening with a smaller group of stakeholders. We were treated to a lovely lunch, short walk in the hills, and traditional music.
Expansion of newborn hearing screening from the capital to a nationwide program is the end goal. There are some financial challenges that need to be addressed within the government, not just for the hearing screening but for the other screening programs as well. We had a meeting with two advisers to the President of Mongolia on the third day to discuss. The government officials were grateful for the information provided by the pediatric hearing loss “team” at the Congress and indicated that they will explore avenues for funding for health screening programs for newborns in the next budget.