From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Newborn screening program is making a difference for Idaho’s most vulnerable

September 29, 2023
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

One of my favorite parts of working at the Department of Health and Welfare is meeting the amazing and talented people who work here. This week I joined staff from the Division of Public Health to learn more about the newborn screening program.

Each year between 20 and 40 babies in Idaho are diagnosed with potentially life-threatening conditions through the program, and this early detection and treatment can prevent intellectual disabilities, life-long health problems, or death.

Program staff gave me an informative program overview and took me on a field trip to the genetic and metabolic clinic at St. Luke’s hospital where we met with a biochemical geneticist, three genetic counselors, a registered dietician, and clinic staff who partner with DHW to screen newborns for rare genetic, metabolic, or other congenital disorders that may not be apparent at birth.

Many of the illnesses are treatable, and early detection can make a big difference for newborns. Timely treatment allows for normal growth and development, and a reduction in infant death and chronic disease.

Screening allows treatment to begin within the first weeks of life and can address disorders like congenital hypothyroidism, phenylketonuria, and cystic fibrosis.

Newborn screening is so effective that it’s widely considered one of the most successful public health achievements in modern history.

This program is truly making a difference for the most vulnerable Idahoans, and I’m excited that earlier this month Gov. Brad Little recognized it by signing a proclamation to honor and commemorate the program’s importance by declaring September Newborn Screening Awareness Month.

For more information about the program, read this recent news release about Newborn Screening Awareness Month or visit the program’s website.

I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend! 

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at 

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