State Programs Expand, But More Than a Million Babies Not Screened for Core Panel of Disorders
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., JULY 11, 2006 - Nearly two-thirds of all babies born in the United States this year will be screened for more than 20 life-threatening disorders - at nearly twice the rate as in 2005, according to the latest March of Dimes Newborn Screening Report Card.
However, disparities in state newborn screening programs mean some babies will die or develop brain damage or other severe complications from these disorders because they are not identified in time for effective treatment, the March of Dimes says.
The March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics have endorsed the recommendation of the American College of Medical Genetics that calls for every baby born in the United States to be screened for 29 disorders, including certain metabolic conditions and hearing deficiency. If diagnosed early, all of these conditions can be successfully managed or treated to prevent severe consequences.
"All babies across America should receive the benefits of being screened for all of these 29 core conditions. Whether babies are screened and get the immediate treatment necessary to lead a healthy life should not depend on which state they are born in," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.
Dr. Howse noted that the U.S. lacks consistent national guidelines for newborn screening. Each state decides how many and which screening tests are required for every baby. Only 5 states - Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia - and the District of Columbia have comprehensive newborn screening programs requiring all newborns be screened for all 29 disorders. That means only 9 percent of all babies are screened for all of the conditions. Last year, only Mississippi provided screening for this uniform panel.
But, Dr. Howse pointed out, more than a million of the 4 million babies born this year will not be screened for all of these treatable disorders.
Last year, only 23 states, covering only 38 percent of the babies born in the U.S., screened for more than 20 of the conditions. This year, the numbers skyrocketed: As of June 1, 2006, 31 states, covering more than 64 percent of all babies, screened for more than 20 of the conditions.
This is the fourth consecutive year the March of Dimes has analyzed state-by-state newborn screening requirements, creating a snapshot of the nation's progress toward improving the health of newborns.
The March of Dimes report card groups states into three categories - red states, which screen for fewer than 10 conditions; yellow states, which screen for 10-20 of the conditions, and green states, which screen for more than 20 conditions.
This year, the District of Columbia and four states - California, Utah, Kentucky and Florida - went from red, the lowest category, to green, the best. Three other states - Virginia, Missouri and Maine - added enough screening tests to move from yellow to green, while Nebraska, Louisiana and New Hampshire went from red to yellow.
"Our goal is to turn the entire map green so that all babies are treated equally, regardless of where they are born," said Dr. Howse.
State and Federal Advocacy Efforts
"Our advocacy efforts are continuing at the state and federal levels," Dr. Howse said. "We have endorsed the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act, sponsored by Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). And we urge Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to endorse the American College of Medical Genetics' recommendation so all babies have a fighting chance at a healthy life. For infants affected by these conditions, these screening tests can mean the difference between life and death, or health and lifelong disability."