Health and Family Services Cabinet
Governor Fletcher Announces Expanded Newborn Screening Rollout; Initiative Will Save Lives
FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 1, 2005) -- Governor Ernie Fletcher today announced the beginning of the rollout for the expanded newborn metabolic screening initiative approved by the 2005 General Assembly.
“As a physician, I have seen firsthand why newborn screenings are essential. The importance of these metabolic screenings – for every child in Kentucky – cannot be overstated,” said Governor Fletcher. “For many of our children, early screening can literally mean the difference between a full, healthy life and one spent battling a debilitating condition. It can even mean the difference between life and death. This initiative will save lives.”
The rollout of expanded newborn screening will continue through December. Beginning today, the Kentucky Public Health Laboratory will add two of the expanded tests—one for hemoglobin S/C disease and another for hemoglobin S/Beta-Thalassemia disease.
The Department for Public Health (DPH) in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services manages the state’s newborn screening program. The state Public Health Laboratory has received two new tandem mass spectrometers. Once installed, the equipment will be tested to verify accuracy. Staff members must also be trained to conduct and process results of the new tests. Several state lab staff members have already received preliminary training at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
In his 2005 budget, Governor Fletcher proposed funding for the expansion, which was then made permanent by the General Assembly through Senate Bill 24. The funding will allow Kentucky to screen for 29 different disorders – 28 metabolic disorders as well as the universal hearing exam – as recommended by the March of Dimes and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Currently Kentucky stands as one of just five states to test its newborns for only four blood conditions.
“Our goal is to begin conducting these additional tests for Kentucky’s newborns as quickly as possible,” said DPH Commissioner William Hacker, M.D. “With the help of our many partners at the state Department for Public Health, at university hospitals and on the state newborn screening workgroup, we will make a difference in the lives of Kentucky’s children. I commend Governor Fletcher for his continuing leadership on this vital issue.”
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.
DPH also continues to work with the state’s university medical centers to ensure the process for definitive diagnosis, treatment and case management for children with conditions identified through the screening program.
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 (2002-2003), Kentucky lost 91 infants to SIDS.
Note to TV Editors/Reporters: B-roll footage of the state public health lab and new newborn screening equipment is available. To request, call (502)564-6786 or visit the Human Resources Complex at 275 E. Main in Frankfort and ask for the Communications Office at the Visitor’s Desk.