Aim: To assess the efficacy of a preterm-targeted screening programme against the routine Australian National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) universal child health screening programme to detect disability in a general practice setting in children born
Methods: Multi-centred trial involving 202 preterm children randomised to receive the preterm-targeted or NHMRC programme. Primary outcome, correct identification of neurosensory disability by general practitioners assessed against gold standard paediatric assessments. Sensitivity analysis estimated interrater agreement and screening accuracy. Secondary outcomes, post natal depression (PND), parental stress, health service use, screening programme helpfulness and correct identification of levels of disability severity.
Results: Of the 195 infants with data on the primary outcome in the preterm-targeted group, their general practitioners correctly identified the disability status of 61/93 (65.6%) children, as compared with 69/102 (67.6%) in the NHMRC group (odds ratios (OR) 0.91 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.50, 1.65). Responses where general practitioners were unsure of a child's disability status were coded as incorrect and not paired for sensitivity analysis. Sensitivity analysis for 180 diagnostic pairs showed fair interrater agreement for both groups (preterm-targeted k = 0.30 vs. NHMRC k = 0.29) with screening test results favouring the preterm-targeted group with greater sensitivity (73% vs. 33%) but lower specificity (70% vs. 92%) resulting in more over referrals (30% vs. 8%); however, these had a significantly lower mean Developmental Quotient (DQ) score compared with non-disabled children. PND scores were higher in preterm-targeted group (OR 1.33 95% CI 0.01, 2.66).
Conclusion: The preterm-targeted programme used by general practitioners: (i) did not improve overall identification of disability status compared to the NHMRC universal programme (Australian New Zealand Clinical Trails Registry number, ACTRN 12606000472572); however (ii) it did demonstrate greater efficacy as a screening tool in accurately identifying disabled children.