New Tests Will Save Lives
Frankfort, KY: Governor Ernie Fletcher announced today that he will provide funding in the budget to expand Kentucky’s newborn screening program to the national standard set by the March of Dimes and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Appearing before a March of Dimes gathering at the Capitol Rotunda, Governor Fletcher said the funding will allow Kentucky to screen for 29 different disorders – 28 metabolic blood disorders as well as the universal hearing exam. Currently Kentucky stands as one of only five states to test its newborns for only four blood conditions.
“As a physician, I have seen first-hand the importance of newborn screenings. These conditions are treatable if we catch them early, but are very serious if allowed to progress,” Governor Fletcher said. “It is the right thing to do – and the smart thing to do – for the next generation of Kentuckians.”
Senator Julie Denton is sponsoring companion legislation to make this funding permanent. "I have been working on this issue for years, and it's so encouraging to have a Governor who shares my commitment for getting this accomplished,” said Senator Denton.
Katrina Adams-Thompson, Director of Program Services for Kentucky March of Dimes, applauded Governor Fletcher's action, saying, "On behalf of all our newborn babies, the March of Dimes is so pleased with Governor Fletcher's leadership in helping this lifesaving initiative become a reality."
New technology known as Tandem Mass Spectrometry has enabled physicians to increase the number of metabolic conditions for which newborns can be screened. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment of children with these metabolic conditions may prevent a child’s serious illness, disability, or even death. Thirty-eight states have expanded their programs through this new technology.
The expansion will cost an estimated $3.1 million this year. These monies will come from a variety of sources, including Tobacco Settlement funds and adjusted hospital fees. Additional General Fund dollars and fees will continue to contribute to the program. Earlier detection and treatment of these disorders, however, is expected to save the Commonwealth millions of dollars in neonatal care costs. More importantly, these tests will save countless lives of children.
It is estimated that up to 5 percent of childhood deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may have actually been caused by a treatable metabolic condition. Over two years (2001-2002), Kentucky lost 76 infants to SIDS.
Additionally, Governor Fletcher’s plan calls for the Department for Public Health (DPH) to continue consulting with experts from the state’s Newborn Screening Advisory Committee as it purchases the necessary equipment, recruits and trains public health staff, and educates hospital staff, physicians and the public about the expansion. DPH will continue to partner with the state’s university medical centers to ensure definitive diagnosis, treatment and case management.
In September 2004, advisers to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson endorsed a study from the American College of Medical Genetics that called for each state to expand its screening for genetic disorders among newborns. The March of Dimes agreed with this recommendation and established it as the group’s national standard. Kentucky will conduct the 28 metabolic blood tests currently recommended and continue its universal newborn hearing screening program.