Newborn Screening Awareness Month takes place in September, a time of the year that focuses on spreading awareness regarding several tests that need to be conducted on newborns. These tests are essential as they help in identifying several diseases that may not be evident at first, but could become life-threatening if left untreated for long. This is why each year, over four million babies are screened at hospitals routinely, 24 to 48 hours after delivery. The result? Diseases are detected and treated. This year, you too can play a role in spreading awareness regarding Newborn Screening. You may just end up saving dozens of lives.
History of Newborn Screening Awareness Month
Though newborn screening is compulsory in today’s time, and infants across the U.S are tested soon after birth, the situation was different before the 1960s. Babies would often die a few days or weeks after birth due to underlying conditions that took time to emerge. As the years passed, doctors and scientists realized that the infant mortality rate could be controlled if the diseases and ailments were detected early on. Thus, newborn screening emerged in the 1960s to check babies for serious, rare, but treatable conditions. The tests are conducted with the help of a blood test, hearing test, and heart screening.
After the advantages of newborn screening entered the limelight, nearly every state in the U.S made it compulsory to conduct the tests. Today, it is amongst the most effective, equitable public health programs that screen every child born in the country. In the 1960s, there was only one condition that an infant was tested for. Today, 35 diseases are looked into as prescribed by the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP). These conditions have been formally recommended by the Health Resources Services Administration (H.R.S.A.).
Moreover, the RUSP continues to add conditions to the list as diseases emerge with time. For instance, spinal muscular atrophy (S.M.A.) was added in 2018. With the help of these tests, diseases are detected in over 12,000 infants annually. Some of these conditions include phenylketonuria (P.K.U.), cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, critical congenital heart disease, hearing loss, and others.
Newborn Screening Awareness Month timeline
Robert Guthrie develops a blood test that can detect whether newborns have phenylketonuria (P.K.U.).
J.M.G. Wilson and F. Jungner establish criteria for screening tests.
President George W. Bush signs the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007.
All states in the U.S start testing for 26 disorders.
Newborn Screening Awareness Month FAQs
How accurate is newborn screening?
It is accurate from a ratio of 0.5% to 6.0%.
When do you take newborns for a screening?
The screening is done when the child is a day or two old.
Why do newborn babies need to have a screening?
Diagnosis at an early stage is beneficial for the infant’s health.
How to Observe Newborn Screening Awareness Month
Make a donation
Numerous hospitals and organizations are still conducting studies to locate different diseases that are found in newborns and how they can be cured. Donate to the cause and help save lives.
Spread awareness regarding the month in any way that you can. This includes posting on social media and having discussions on online forums to reach out to as many people as possible.
Convince a doctor to host a seminar
Speak to a doctor in your area and ask him/her to host a seminar so parents who are about to have a baby may understand the importance of newborn screening. This may help save a life.
5 Interesting Facts About Newborn Screening
Four million babies are born and screened each year.
Those who can skip the screening
The newborn screening is skipped only if the parent cites religious reasons.
Newborn screening is amongst the 10 most important public health achievements of the century.
Number of tests available
There are tests for 60 disorders.
Conditions are identified in 5,000 babies yearly.
Why Newborn Screening Awareness Month is Important
It helps detect diseases
The month is important because it supports newborn screening and encourages people to get all the required tests done to help keep their baby out of harm's way. This month, more research is being conducted to spot diseases that are still ignored.
It spreads awareness
The month helps spread awareness regarding different diseases that infants suffer from, as well as the different cures that can be opted for once the disease is detected. This is especially helpful for pregnant parents.
It saves lives
Due to the awareness created throughout the month regarding newborn screening and various diseases, parents are quick to act when a problem is highlighted during a test. This helps in saving the lives of numerous infants.
Newborn Screening Awareness Month dates