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Am J Prev Med. 1999 Feb;16(2):116-21.

Preventing morbidity and mortality from sickle cell disease. A public health perspective.

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  • 1Birth Defects and Genetic Diseases Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



Sickle cell disease is a group of conditions characterized by production of abnormal hemoglobin, with clinical manifestations that vary by genotype and age.


To discuss current public health issues associated with sickle cell disease, and approaches to preventing complications from these conditions in the United States.


Literature review.


Most clinical interventions for people with sickle cell disease discussed in the medical literature can be classified as tertiary prevention: for example, therapy to ameliorate anemia, reduce the frequency of pain crises, or prevent stroke recurrences. A form of secondary prevention, newborn screening, has emerged as an important public health approach to identifying affected children before they develop complications. Newborn screening is the starting point for simple public health strategies such as parental education, immunization, and penicillin prophylaxis. Identification of affected families by newborn or community screening programs has also been an entry point for genetic counseling, although utilization of prenatal testing has varied by factors such as geographic location. Public health agencies have had significant involvement with funding, policy making, and formulation of laboratory and clinical guidelines for sickle cell disease. Since the introduction of penicillin prophylaxis policies, newborn screening, new immunizations, and comprehensive medical care centers, the survival of young children with sickle cell disease has improved.


Although the efforts of preventive medicine providers in public health programs are not solely responsible for the improved survival of children with sickle cell disease, such programs remain an important component in preventing sickle cell complications.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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