Newborn Screening Month

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Health (DOH) celebrates the positive impacts that the Newborn Screening (NBS) Program has made in our state during Newborn Screening Awareness Month. This public health program identifies newborns who may have (a) genetic, metabolic or other congenital condition(s) that may not be apparent at birth.

“The NBS Program is a vital, proactive tool parents can use to protect their newborns from certain medical conditions,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “This important resource saves lives and continues to be one of the most successful public health initiatives in the nation.”

“We are committed to ensuring all babies born in Florida have the best start in life,” said State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees. “The Newborn Screening Program tests for more than 55 conditions, allowing newborns to get the interventions they need in order to increase their chances of a healthy life.”

“Newborn screening is a highly successful public health program administered by Children’s Medical Services (CMS), that identifies rare metabolic, endocrine or other congenital disorders that may not be apparent at birth and assures early detection, management and follow-up for those affected.  Starting in 1965 with newborn screening for Phenylketonuria (PKU), the Florida Newborn Screening Program now celebrates 55 years of quiet, behind the scenes success,” said Deputy Secretary for Children’s Medical Services Dr. Robert Karch.

The goal of the NBS Program is to screen, identify, diagnose, and manage newborns at-risk for conditions that, without detection and treatment, can lead to permanent developmental and physical damage or death. With appropriate and timely treatment, newborns identified will have the opportunity to grow and reach their potential.

Each year, approximately 225,000 babies are born in Florida and 700 of those newborns have an identified condition that is detected through newborn screening. With a prompt screening, treatment can be initiated in the first few weeks of life, successfully treating many newborn conditions, such as Phenylketonuria (PKU), sickle cell disease, and cystic fibrosis.

The newborn screening process in Florida includes the bloodspot, hearing, and pulse oximetry screenings. A few drops of blood are drawn from the newborn’s heel 24 to 48 hours after birth, and tests for hearing loss and critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs) are conducted before the newborn leaves the hospital. The hospital sends the blood sample to the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories in Jacksonville, which screens more than 1,000 blood samples per day. If a positive screen is detected, parents will be notified immediately, and follow-up testing will be done.

The Florida Newborn Screening Panel includes 35 conditions recommended by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as well as 22 secondary conditions. In February 2020, Florida added screening for two Lysosomal Storage Disorders, and added another for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in late spring.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, newborn screening is one of the top public health achievements in modern history. Newborn screening continues to expand as more conditions are being recommended to the national panel.

Since 2000, National Newborn Screening Awareness Month is observed to educate about newborn screening and its detectable conditions, as well as steps parents can take to ensure results are reported promptly. Some tips include:

  • Choose a primary care provider or pediatrician before birth, along with providing the birthing facility with the doctor’s contact information.  This information will save time if your baby needs medical attention from a specialist.
  • Make sure contact information, such as phone number and address, are up-to-date and provide the hospital with a name and phone number of an alternate contact person.
  • Before hospital discharge, ask if the newborn screening was performed.
  • Ensure that the newborn’s name is correct on all documents, such as a different last name.
  • Ask for the results of the newborn screening during the first baby checkup with a pediatrician. Asking this question will serve as a reminder to the doctor to review the results.

For more information, go to www.floridanewbornscreening.com.