Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
December 22, 2016

Leah Bucco-White, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-9356

Saving Babies’ Lives One Foot at a Time
Celebrating 50 Years of Newborn Screening in Nebraska

Lincoln— 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of newborn screening in Nebraska. This Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ program has improved and/or saved the lives of hundreds of babies in Nebraska by screening for serious illness.
“I want to start out by saying how grateful I am for newborn screening in Nebraska. Without it, my life and the lives of others could be so much different,” said a local college student diagnosed with PKU, a genetic disorder. “Thanks to the newborn screening test I was given right at birth, I am able to live a perfectly normal and healthy life.”

“As Nebraska celebrates 50 years of newborn screening, hundreds of babies get to celebrate birthdays that may not have been,” said Dr. Tom Williams, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “Through public-private partnership, our Newborn Screening program is truly a public health success story.”

Nebraska is one of only a few states that uses a public-private partnership to achieve newborn screening testing for all babies.  Due to a strong system involving hospital personnel; Nebraska’s contracted newborn screening laboratory; DHHS follow-up staff; and Nebraska’s pediatric and specialty providers, Nebraska enjoys some of the fastest turnaround times in the nation. 

A report by the National Newborn Screening Technical Assistance and Evaluation Program identifies Nebraska as one of the nation’s top performers when it comes to getting the testing done quickly and the results out to providers. Nebraska ranked in the top two for the laboratory reporting the highest percent of results by 7 days of age for the past four years.

     2015 – 98.1% reported by 7 days, ranking 2nd
     2014 – 97.9% reported by 7 days, ranking 2nd
     2013 – 98.1% reported by 7 days, ranking 1st
     2012 – 97.8% reported by 7 days, ranking 1st  

Newborn screening is required by Nebraska law and tests for 29 conditions, all of which can cause serious problems, even death, if not diagnosed and treated early in life. The screening uses a few drops of blood from the newborn's heel and is completed prior to discharge from the birthing facility.  

“Newborn screening is something that’s done for every baby born in Nebraska,” said Julie Luedtke, Newborn Screening Program Manager.  “It identifies conditions that could be harmful to a child. Conditions that a parent can’t see and without immediate signs or symptoms, yet they can start affecting a baby’s health or survival within days of birth.”

While each condition is individually rare, in Nebraska one in every 500-600 babies born is affected by one of them. Out of the approximately 27,000 babies screened in 2015, 58 newborns were identified with conditions and treated in time to prevent or reduce problems associated with those conditions.

Newborn screening keeps rare conditions from stealing children’s lives.  Without screening, typically there are no red flags to alert families or physicians that a baby might become sick or develop disabilities.  Ultimately these disorders can affect how the body breaks down food, fights infection, and may also impact development, hormones, blood cells, lungs or breathing.

Following development of a new screening test by Dr. Robert Guthrie, the first state-mandated newborn screening programs began in 1963 to find babies with a rare condition known as “PKU.”  When detected early and treated with a special diet, children with PKU lead a normal life.  Fifty years later, more than 27,000 newborns are screened annually in Nebraska for 29 different genetic and metabolic conditions, plus hearing loss and critical congenital heart defects (CCHD). 

Newborn Screening in Nebraska:
1967             Nebraska law mandates newborn screening for one condition.
1987             Nebraska newborn screening now includes three conditions.
1996             First regulations created to standardize newborn screening.
1996-2014    Conditions included in newborn screening continue to expand.
2000             Infant Hearing Act passes which requires newborn hearing screening.
2016             Today, Nebraska screens for 29 conditions on the blood spot panel.

For more information on newborn screening, go to
The Newborn Screening in Nebraska annual report can be found at