Has Your Baby Been Screened?

The majority of infants in the U.S. are not being fully screened for serious but treatable health conditions, according to a new report from The March Of Dimes.

Jennifer Howse, the president of the March Of Dimes, tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler screening is a state responsibility and and many states have improved their newborn screening programs. But more needs to be done.

She explains, "Every state has to authorize which tests will be automatically done in the hospital. So what the report card does is to measure, as of June 1, 2005, what tests the baby's getting state by state. So for example, about 40 percent of states, they're doing a pretty good job. They're testing for more than 20 conditions. We're very pleased about that. That's progress since last year."

Here is what parents can do:

  • Talk to their health provider about supplemental screening for their baby
  • Know the test that your baby needs
  • Know what your state requires
  • Arrange for supplemental testing.

The 29 tests that the March of Dimes recommends are for serious and treatable disorders. Howse says, "What's important is for parents to know all 29 conditions and to make sure that their babies are getting screened before they get home from the hospital."

The test involves simply pricking the infant's heel to get a blood sample. The cost for tests that states do not yet require is not more than $100.

Surprisingly, Howse notes, the state of Mississippi is the only state so far that requires that the full panel of 29 infant screening tests. She adds, "California has done a great job of moving forward with legislation. I think they'll have a really good program in place fairly shortly."

So what's the holdup in other states?

"It's a matter of, I think, priorities," Howse says. "States really need to focus on making sure that their newborns are safe. And these screening tests are simple, safe and effective. There's treatment for every one of the 29 conditions."