March of Dimes Report Card: Newborn screenings up

The percentage of newborns living in states requiring screening for at least 21 life-threatening disorders has more than doubled since 2005, according to the latest March of Dimes Newborn Screening Report Card. The Report Card says nearly 90% of babies born in the United States are in states requiring the screenings. But 500,000 babies still are not screened for serious genetic disorders.

The American College of Medical Genetics has recommended that every U.S. newborn be screened for 29 genetic or functional disorders. If diagnosed early, it says, each of the conditions can be successfully managed or treated.

Two years ago, the March of Dimes says, 38% of infants were born in states requiring screening for at least 21 of the core 29 conditions. As a result of four years of advocacy by March of Dimes chapters, partners, and parents, it says, the percentage has increased to 87.5% or some 3.6 million babies.

While this expansion of newborn screening is good news for families, the lives of 500,000 newborns still hang in the balance," said March of Dimes president Jennifer Howse, PhD. "The United States lacks federal guidelines for newborn screening. Babies must be screened to receive treatment necessary to survive and lead healthy lives. The lack of federal guidelines makes it difficult for states to get support for needed legislation."

Currently, Dr. Howse said, 13 states and the District of Columbia require screening for all 29 conditions. (A list of screening tests each state provides is available online at www.marchofdimes.com/peristats.) "All babies across America should be screened for all 29 of these treatable conditions," she said.

This is the fifth year the March of Dimes has worked with the National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center to analyze state-by-state newborn screening requirements.

Dr. Howse said the organization supports the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act and the Screening for Health of Infants and Newborns Act of 2007, two bipartisan pieces of legislation that would lay the groundwork for national guidelines and authorize funding for education, improved follow-up care, and expanded programs.