Newsroom > DHHS News Release
For Immediate Release
September 19, 2016
Leah Bucco-White, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-9356
Newborn Screening – A Successful Public Health Program
Helping Nebraska Babies Live Better Lives
September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month
Lincoln—Newborn screening is something that’s done for every baby born in Nebraska. It’s a simple blood test that 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 hours or days of birth.
“Newborn Screening is one of the most successful public health programs. Each year, screening saves babies’ lives and prevents neurological damage and other developmental disabilities,” said Courtney Phillips, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
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 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.
Ensuring babies are screened is a system coordinated by the DHHS Newborn Screening Program in collaboration with hospitals, a laboratory, health care professionals and families.
“Early detection, diagnosis, and intervention can prevent death or disability and enable children to reach their full potential,” said Julie Luedtke, Newborn Screening Program Manager for DHHS.
While each condition is individually rare, in Nebraska one in every 500-600 babies born is affected by one of them.
Some of the most frequent conditions diagnosed are:
• Congenital primary hypothyroidism
• Cystic fibrosis
• Hemoglobinopathies like sickle cell disease
The other arm of newborn screening is newborn hearing screening. Early intervention for babies identified with hearing loss maximizes language and cognitive development. Hearing loss is the most common birth condition. Since 2003, 100 percent of Nebraska birthing facilities conduct newborn hearing screenings, compared to only 16 percent in 2000.
In 2015, just over 27,000 Nebraska newborns received the hearing screening. As a result of the screening 49 were diagnosed as being deaf or hard of hearing and 57 hearing records were pending the final screening and diagnostic testing.
The Nebraska Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program recommends that parents have their babies screened before they leave the hospital. If an infant isn’t hearing properly, early intervention equals a better outcome. Research shows that early intervention by 6 months old can enhance a child’s speech and language development as well as social and emotional development.
History of 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.