Indexed on: 13 Nov '04Published on: 13 Nov '04Published in: Community genetics
Paraguay is a developing country with low levels of health coverage, with 81% of the population without health insurance, a proportion that reaches 98.1% among the poor, 93% among the rural population and 91.7% among the mainly Guarani-speaking population. The infant mortality rate is 19.4 per 1,000, although there is gross under-reporting. Maternal mortality rate is alarmingly high at 110.9 per 100,000 livebirths, reaching 420.5 in rural areas. There are only two clinical geneticists and four biochemists trained in human genetics, and virtually all genetic services in the country are concentrated in the 'Instituto de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Salud' (IICS) from the National University. The teaching of medical genetics in medical schools is included in physiology and pathology courses, while at the postgraduate level, training in medical genetics is limited to pediatrics and gynecology. In 1999, a pilot newborn screening program was initiated to determine the frequency of congenital hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria and to provide early treatment for affected babies. Another pilot project recently launched by the Ministry of Health is the Program for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects, mandating folic acid fortification of flour, but as of the end of 2003 it had not been implemented. Paraguay lacks adequate resources to provide accurate diagnoses and treatment of genetic conditions.