Babies born in Kansas will benefit from a greater number of health screening tests, thanks to a bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Kathleen Sebelius. The new law, effective July 1, expands newborn screening from five tests to 29 tests.
“These additional screening services will be available for every baby born in Kansas,” said Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). “Many disorders in newborns are treatable and relatively rare, but they must be identified early to avoid devastating consequences.”
Newborn disorders can be present without being readily apparent. Unless the diseases are identified early through screening, they can cause severe illness, mental retardation or in some cases, death.
The Kansas Newborn Screening Program began in 1965 with screening for phenylketonuria (PKU) and was later expanded to include screening for galactosemia, hyperthyroidism, and sickle cell anemia. About 24 hours after birth, hospital staff prick the heels of newborns to collect small samples of their blood to be used for screening tests, performed at the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratory.
Kansas newborns also receive hearing screening tests. The costs for testing approximately 40,000 babies each year are covered by the state.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help ensure normal growth and development, and reduce significant human and financial costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that lifetime costs for medications, hospitalization and special education for just one affected child can exceed $1 million when disorders are not detected early.
The Kansas Newborn Screening Program includes screening, follow-up, diagnosis, management, education and evaluation to reduce the incidence of metabolic deficiency illnesses. For more information, visit www.kdheks.gov/newborn_screening/ or www.marchofdimes.com.