Gov. Little declares September Newborn Screening Awareness Month

DHW Communications

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

Earlier this month, Gov. Brad Little signed a proclamation to honor and commemorate the program’s importance, declaring September 2023 Newborn Screening Awareness Month. The proclamation helps raise awareness about newborn screening and helps ensure all infants born in Idaho are offered education and screening for life-threatening diseases. 

Newborn screening is a state public health program that identifies newborns who may have a genetic, metabolic, or other congenital disorder that may not be apparent at birth. If left untreated, newborn screening conditions may cause serious illness, developmental disability, intellectual impairment, or death. 

“Many of these illnesses are treatable, and early detection can make a big difference for newborns,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Division of Public Health at the Department of Health and Welfare. “Timely treatment allows for normal growth and development, and a reduction in infant death and chronic disease. Most infants don’t show signs of disease right after they’re born.” 

Early detection, diagnosis, and intervention enables children to reach their full potential. Today, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have newborn screening programs. 

Screening allows treatment to be initiated within the first few weeks of life, treating many complications associated with newborn screening disorders such as congenital hypothyroidism, phenylketonuria, and cystic fibrosis.  

In Idaho, newborn screening includes blood spot screening, hearing screening, and critical congenital heart disease screening, which measures oxygen saturation in the blood to detect critical congenital heart disease.  

The Idaho blood spot or metabolic screen covers more than 50 conditions recommended by  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2022, 22,140 infants received the blood spot screening, 21,814 infants received the critical congenital heart disease screening, and 21,941 received a hearing screening.  

A total of 40 Idaho infants were diagnosed with a newborn screening condition in 2022 based on the results of the blood spot of metabolic screen alone. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other national leading science-based, data-driven, service organizations, newborn screening is one of the most successful public health achievements in modern history. Newborn screening continues to expand as more disorders are being recommended to the national panel.  

DHW’s Division of Public Health and the Washington State Public Health Lab work in conjunction to screen, follow up, and provide newborn screening education and awareness to improve the lives of Idaho’s babies.  

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