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Call for couples to get health checks

THE Shanghai Women's Federation called on more young couples to receive health checks before getting married to reduce the number of infants born with congenital defects.

A total of 138,981 couples were married in the city last year and 29.7 percent had health checks in advance. The rate was 25.8 percent in 2007 and 22.4 percent in 2006.

Although the percentage has increased, it's low compared with the 98 percent in 2003, when health checks were compulsory before marriage registration.

The federation said it is concerned about the low percentage.

"Physical examinations before marriage is the first step to preventing the birth of infants with congenital defects," said Zheng Ye, a federation official.

"The absence of the health checks may have negative effects on the quality of the city's newborn population."

The present rate of newborns with defects was between 0.8 and 1 percent, slightly higher than before 2003. Officials didn't release comparative figures.

According to health department figures, about 12 percent of those who had health checks before marriage were found to have diseases between 1990 and 2003. Hereditary, infectious and sexually transmitted diseases were the most common.

Risk of infection

The 12-percent figure indicates that health checks are necessary as people with some diseases, such as syphilis, shouldn't get married until they have been cured, Zheng said, otherwise, their spouse and future children will be infected.

Some young people think the health checks aren't necessary as they already get free annual physicals provided by employers.

"I'm quite healthy as the annual physical has never indicated any diseases," said Wu Jian, a 30-year-old joint-venture employee, who neglected to have the examination when registering for marriage. "I'm very busy and don't have time to get another check."

But Zheng said the two health checks are different. The health check before marriage stresses hereditary and sexually transmitted diseases.

Eleven districts have set up examination rooms at marriage registration institutions. About 34 percent of couples had health checks at these locations in 2007, twice the number of those in the city's other districts.

"This practice should be spread to the whole city," Vice Mayor Zhao Wen said yesterday when she inspected the Minhang District marriage registration institution.

"Young people should understand the importance of getting their health checked before marriage."


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