WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., JULY 11, 2007 Nearly 90 percent of all babies born in the United States more than double the percentage in 2005 live in states that require screening for at least 21 life-threatening disorders, according to the latest March of Dimes Newborn Screening Report Card.
The March of Dimes endorsed the 2004 report of the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) that calls for every baby born in the U.S. to be screened for 29 genetic or functional disorders. If diagnosed early, all of these devastating conditions can be successfully managed or treated to prevent severe consequences.
Two years ago, only 38 percent of infants were born in states that required screening for at least 21 of these 29 core conditions. As a result of four years of intensive advocacy efforts by March of Dimes chapters and their partners, that percentage has increased to 87.5, or about 3.6 million babies.
While this important expansion of newborn screening is very good news for families, the lives of 500,000 newborns who still arent tested hang in the balance, said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. Despite the pleas of parents, clinicians and advocacy groups the United States still lacks consistent federal guidelines for newborn screening. Babies must be screened, to receive immediate treatment necessary to survive and lead healthy lives. The lack of federal guidelines makes it difficult for states to get support for needed legislation.
In states that do not follow the ACMG recommendations, the March of Dimes staff and volunteers continue to work with governors, legislatures, and parent groups to advocate for expanded newborn screening on a state-by-state basis.
In Pennsylvania, newborn screening is offered at most hospitals, but it is not required by law. Therefore it is not a guarantee and, potentially, screening could be eliminated or reduced.