COLUMBIA, S.C. — June 19th is World Sickle Cell Disease Day.
The disease is a blood disorder of red blood cells. A lot of times, the cells become sickle or crescent-shaped and have a hard time passing through the small blood vessels.
“Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disorder globally," says Dr. Cheedy Jaja an associate nursing professor at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Jaja has dedicated his practice to providing care for sickle cell patients.
“The interesting about sickle cell disease is that here in the United States each year, approximately 2,000-3,000 kids are born with sickle cell disease. But the bulk of sickle cell’s path are outside of the United States in Africa and in India," Dr. Jaja tells Street Squad.
Born in Sierra Leone, Dr. Jaja decided he wanted to take his expertise back there to help the up to 5,000 children affected each year.
Dr. Jaja established a program to screen children in Sierra Leone early enough to help them get into clinical care. "Together with partners, we were able to establish a clinic - the very first pediatric clinic in the country. And we have about 120 children that we’ve been caring for since 2017.
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Dr. Jaja continues his work in advocating for sickle cell awareness. “Today is World Sickle Cell Day, and we would like the folks in Columbia to know that sickle cell disease is the most common genetic condition. Its been around for over 100 years and its impact is mostly on folks of color. But there are very simple public health initiatives that, if they’re in place, could allow these individuals to have very good quality of life and to have very good life expectancy.”
To learn more about sickle cell disease, click here.
To learn more about Dr. Jaja, check out some of his work here.