Tuesday, February 17, 2009

State Draws Praise for Newborn Screening Changes

Pennsylvania will soon improve its standing on a national report card grading newborn health screening. The March of Dimes is praising the passage of a law that will require all newborns in Pennsylvania to be screened for 29 conditions. The conditions, including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and hearing loss, are rare, but treatable. If caught early, the March of Dimes says parents can often make simple diet changes to protect their infants from mental retardation or even death. Screening is done by taking a few drops of blood, usually from a newborn's heel.

Most hospitals in Pennsylvania screen for the conditions already. Delores Smith with the March of Dimes in Pennsylvania says the law is important not just because it makes screening universal; she says it will also allow the Department of Health to track how many children have these serious conditions. Smith says that will provide an important resource for physicians who may never have seen other patients with these conditions.

Currently, 24 other states and the District of Columbia require these screenings. Pennsylvania will join them in July.

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