PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 26, 2013

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Health Commissioner O’Dowd Celebrates National 50th Anniversary of Newborn Screening

On Monday, July 29, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd will visit Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick to celebrate the national 50th anniversary of newborn screening.  The Commissioner will be joined by Debra-Lynn Day-Salvatore, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Medical Genetics and Genomic Medicine at Saint Peter's University Hospital and families that benefited from New Jersey's Newborn Screening Program.

This event will begin at noon at Saint Peter's University Hospital, Sister Marie de Pazzi Conference Center, 254 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. 

More than 100,000 babies born in New Jersey each year are tested for 54 genetic conditions, hearing loss and Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHD). New Jersey has screened 2.4 million babies over the past 20 years. Of those, 6,463 were identified with a biochemical or genetic condition. Between 2002 and 2011, hearing loss was detected in 1,106 babies. 

New Jersey was the first state to implement newborn screening for CCHD under legislation signed by Governor Christie in 2011. A study published in the national journal Pediatrics on July 15 found that in the first 9 months after implementation, 3 babies with previously unsuspected CCHD were identified as well as 17 infants with other potentially life-threatening conditions. The Pediatrics article can be found at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2013-0269 

The current state budget invests an additional $1.6 million in new funds this year to expand the number of newborn screening tests from 54 to 60 biochemical and genetic disorders. As a result of Emma's Law, signed by Governor Christie, new testing will add 5 lysosomal storage disorders which impair the body's ability to break down certain substances like proteins. Testing will also begin for Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, which prevents newborns from fighting infections and is fatal if not detected. 

The Department's Public Health and Environmental Laboratories tests blood specimens sent from the state's hospitals, usually collected within 48 hours of a baby's birth. If testing identifies a possible abnormality, staff in the Department's Division of Family Health Services work with physicians to ensure that the families are informed about the abnormal results and connected with appropriate medical specialists. 

Nationally, newborn screening began in 1963 using a method developed by microbiologist Dr. Robert Guthrie to test infants at birth for a genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU). Testing, early detection and treatment can help prevent irreversible neurological damage. 

Today, all states require screening for at least 26 conditions. 

Of the more than four million babies born in the U.S. each year, newborn screening saves the lives of at least 12,000 from death or from a lifetime of mental or physical disability.

For more information on the 50th anniversary of newborn screening, visit www.50yearssavingbabies.org.

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