Each year state newborn-screening programs test four-million babies across the nation for disorders that could cause illness or even death. A report ordered by Congress from the General Acccounting Office finds that of dozens of tests available, only a handful are mandated by states for newborn babies. Tonya Diehn in the state public-health department says Iowa’s a leader in that testing.The screening’s done sometime within 24 hours to 5 days after the baby’s born, and they poke the heel and collect a couple drops of blood on a paper “form” and screen it for treatable disorders. If the tests signal such disorders, they are first reconfirmed and then counselors explain the metabolic problem to the baby’s parents and talk about what can be done to deal with it — often special diets or medication. In Iowa, she says we screen for 76 disorders routinely but the state’s doing a pilot in which it also tests the babies’ blood for up to 30 additional disorders. The high-tech test uses the same blood sample — just five drops — that they’ve already taken. Diehn admits it would cost more to do all 37 tests on newborns, and some of the conditions are very rare. But the savings up front to diagnose it before symptoms appear can spare a child severe mental retardation or even death, so that child’s family will save hundreds of thousands of dollars or more within the baby’s lifetime. South Dakota requires only three tests, Iowa’s highest in the region with seven mandated now, and Diehn says as more states get the testing equipment they’re likely to add newborn screening for more disorders in the future. Metabolic disorders like P-K-U or sickle-cell disease cannot be cured, but with treatment a child can live a good life.
You are here: / / Iowa a leader in testing done for newborns