A social profile of deaths related to sickle cell disease in India: a case for an ethical policy response

Sangeeta Chattoo, Dipty Jain, Nidhi Nashine, Rajan Singh

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India accounts for 14.5 percent of the global SCD newborns, roughly over 42,000 a year, second to sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the availability of cheap diagnostic and treatment options, SCD remains a largely neglected disease within healthcare policy and practice. Epidemiological modeling based on small, often dated, regional studies (largely from sub-Saharan Africa) estimate that between 50 and 90 percent of affected children will/die before the age of 5 years. This premise, coupled with targets of reducing under 5 mortality (SDG 4), privileges public health interventions for screening and prevention of new births, undermining investments in long-term health and social care. This paper presents a retrospective, descriptive analysis of the socio-demographic profile of 447 patients diagnosed with sickle cell or sickle-beta thalassemia, who died following admission at a tertiary care entre in India. We used anonymized hospital records of 3,778 sickle cell patients, admitted in pediatric and adult/medical wards between January 2016 and February 2021. A majority of hospital deaths occurred in the second and third decades of life, following a hospital admission for a week. The overall mortality during 2016–2019 was 14% with little gender difference over time. Contrary to our expectations, the number of hospital deaths did not increase during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, between 2020 and 2021. The conclusion highlights the importance of longitudinal, socio-demographic data on deaths as providing important insights for identifying ethical policy interventions focused on improving SCD outcomes over time, reducing inequities in access to care, and preventing what might be considered “excess” deaths.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in public health
Issue number1265313
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 Chattoo, Jain, Nashine and Singh


  • sickle cell, India, mortality
  • structural inequality, ethical policy

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