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More Infants in U.S. Undergo Screening for Disorders

But disparities among state screenings mean many children not screened for some problems

TUESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- While U.S.-born babies are being screened for more than 20 life-threatening disorders at nearly twice the rate of last year, some of them still die, suffer brain damage or develop other serious complications because state-screening programs fail to identify other disorders in a timely manner, according to the latest Newborn Screening Report Card from the March of Dimes.

The report notes that nearly two-thirds of all babies born in the United States will be screened for these 20 disorders, which include certain metabolic conditions and hearing deficiencies. But it also notes that the United States lacks consistent national guidelines for newborn screening, and that there are disparities among state screening programs. Only five states and the District of Columbia require that newborns be screened for 29 disorders identified by the American College of Medical Genetics. As a result, only 9 percent of all U.S. babies are screened for all of the conditions, the report indicates.

"All babies across America should receive the benefits of being screened for all of these 29 core conditions," said Jennifer L. Howse, M.D., president of the March of Dimes, in a statement. "Whether babies are screened and get the immediate treatment necessary to lead a healthy life should not depend on which state they are born in."

The March of Dimes has endorsed the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act, a congressional effort that would provide $15 million to improve newborn screening.

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