Viewpoint: Congress must reauthorize newborn screenings

It is imperative that Congress reauthorize the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act before it expires in September 2019, wrote R. Rodney Howell, MD, president of the International Society of Neonatal Screening, in an op-ed for STAT.

Four takeaways from the op-ed:

1. Most of the 4 million babies born in the U.S. each year have their heels pricked for drops of blood, which are then analyzed for serious but treatable disorders. Early detection of these disorders can allow babies to be treated before they develop serious disabilities or die of their conditions.

2. Though each state has its own variation on which disorders get tested, the federal government has also been playing a role over the last two decades. It began issuing guidelines on which conditions should be screened in 2002 and formed a committee to review the guidelines in 2008, when the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act was signed into law. 

3. National programs improve screening in every state, Dr. Howell wrote. He says he was the founding chair of the advisory committee, which uses scientific rigor to conduct its reviews. As a physician, he also saw the program's impact first-hand.

4. Dr. Howell called the screening program "one of the most successful public health stories in U.S. history" but noted that the law must be reauthorized by September. Without reauthorization, the law will expire and the program will be discontinued. The program must be reauthorized, Dr. Howell wrote, to ensure its continued success.

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