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Joshua Hellmann Foundation and Mead Johnson Nutrition Call on Expecting Parents to Take the VITAL STEP to Have Their Newborn Screened for Inborn Errors of Metabolism


October 22, 2015 - Hong Kong, China

Joshua Hellmann Foundation for Orphan Disease (JHF) and Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN) today announced the VITAL STEP program, a territory-wide education initiative and free(1) screening support for Inborn Errors of Metabolism (IEM). IEM are rare metabolic diseases that can hamper childhood development and even cause death. In Hong Kong, about one in every 4,000 newborn babies suffers from IEM(2). If identified and treated early, the impact of IEM on a child can be sufficiently minimized through methods such as dietary adjustments and medication.

JHF and MJN call on all Hong Kong expecting parents to take the vital step to safeguard their newborns from IEM by having them screened against metabolic diseases within seven days of birth, a critical period when the diagnosis would be most accurate.

Under the VITAL STEP program, MJN has donated HK$1 million to JHF as kickoff funding to support the research and development of newborn screening tests, conduct a series of education seminars, and provide support to diagnosed patients. A micro film produced by award-winning film director Adrian Kwan Shun-Fai is also launched today to raise public awareness and understanding on IEM.

The VITAL STEP program is kicked off on the birthday of Joshua Hellmann, who passed away in October, 2007, at the age of 15 after a five-year battle with Melas Syndrome, one of the metabolic diseases. Hellmann's mother, Christina Strong, set up JHF to advance the awareness, treatment and research of metabolic diseases.

Christina Strong, founder of Joshua Hellmann Foundation for Orphan Disease, said: "IEM are rare and serious diseases that are often unknown, but can have serious consequences, including death. Despite our efforts in the last few years, awareness of IEM is very low, especially among the local community. Through the VITAL STEP program, we hope to change this situation and support every child's healthy development."

Ruthia Wong, vice president and general manager of Mead Johnson Nutrition Hong Kong, said, "For decades, Mead Johnson Nutrition has been one of the few companies that provide specialized nutrition for babies with IEM. Many children with metabolic diseases who are diagnosed and treated early can grow and develop normally. It is important for parents to not miss the critical seven-day screening window and have their newborns tested after birth. We are glad to advance JHF's efforts and hope every expecting parent will take this VITAL STEP."

Subsidy Program for Newborn Metabolic Screening
To encourage parents to bring their newborns for IEM screening, JHF has also partnered with The Chinese University of Hong Kong to offer free(3) IEM screening. The first qualified 500 parents who apply for the program can enjoy a full HK$800 subsidy(4) to cover the cost of IEM screening at the Center of Inborn Errors of Metabolic (CIEM) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).

CIEM uses a blood test -- the international standard testing method -- for newborn metabolic screening. A few drops of blood are collected onto a card by pricking the baby's heel within the first 7 days after birth, and 1 day after completing oral feeding. Accuracy of the screened IEM is high, and results are available within a few days.

Expecting parents whose delivery dates fall between 23 October and 31 December 2015, or whose babies are under 7 days of birth within this period can submit applications for the newborn IEM screening subsidy online at www.vitalstep.com.hk, beginning October 23. Confirmation will be given to the applicants within three working days of online submission.

VITAL STEP Micro Film
To foster wider public awareness, award-winning film director, Adrian Kwan Shun-fai who directed "Little Big Master", has produced a micro film based on a true story of an IEM patient. The micro film premiered today, and can be viewed at the VITAL STEP program website www.vitalstep.com.hk.

Speaking at the VITAL STEP launch press conference, Kwan said, "I am especially passionate about stories that convey the beauty of human nature, and feel that it is my responsibility to spread warm and positive energy through my films. Producing this micro film based on a real story of a child with metabolic disorder was an unforgettable experience. Babies are a gift to their parents and taking a little step as simple as a metabolic screening could change their lives. I hope this micro film will help spread this important message to everyone and express our gratitude to healthcare professionals, as well as salute to all IEM patients and their families."

The VITAL STEP program supports the Hong Kong government's initiative to promote and encourage newborn metabolic screening. For more details on the VITAL STEP program, IEMs and newborn metabolic screening subsidy, visit www.vitalstep.com.hk.

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(From left to right) Ms. Elisha London, Nutrition Scientist in the Global Regulatory and Nutrition Science at Mead Johnson Nutrition, Mrs. Christina Strong, Founder of Joshua Hellmann Foundation, Ms. Ruthia Wong, Vice President and General Manager of Mead Johnson Nutrition (Hong Kong), and Mr. Adrian Kwan Shun-fai, Award-winning Movie Director, participate in the kickoff press conference of VITAL STEP program.
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(1) Terms and conditions apply. Please refer to www.vitalstep.com.hk for details

(2) According to information from the Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit of the Chinese University of Hong Kong

(3) Terms and conditions apply. Please refer to www.vitalstep.com.hk for details

(4) Please note that the Program does not cover the HK$360 consultation fee charged by the hospital.

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