Every baby born in Kansas deserves the best possible chance of a healthy life. The excellent work of the Kansas newborn screening program could be expanded and better supported with the passage of a bill currently held in a Senate committee.
The Kansas newborn screening program is a partnership between public health departments and hospitals to ensure every baby born in Kansas, nearly 35,000 each year, is screened for 32 disorders. The screening seeks to identify disorders that are undetectable at birth but can be life-threatening or life-altering for the infant. Many of the conditions can be better managed if identified early, before a child starts missing milestones or experiencing symptoms.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends newborn screening for 35 different disorders, three more than the Kansas newborn screening program currently screens for. Senate Bill 346 would expand the screening program to include the full list of 35 disorders, making Kansas the sixth state to do so. The bill also would increase the cap on state funding for newborn screening from $2.5 million to $5 million to better meet the needs of Kansans.
At a recent committee hearing, Paloma Juarez, of Prairie Village, gave particularly persuasive testimony. Her son was screened for Pompe Disease, a genetic disorder impacting how the body processes sugar, only because she gave birth on the Missouri side of the state line, as Sydney Hoover reporter for The Topeka Capital-Journal.
“Not only did early diagnosis keep Vaun alive, it impacted his quality of life,” Juarez told the committee. “He can walk and run and jump, things I took for granted before I knew my son might never be able to do those things.”
Screening infants for all 35 disorders recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a wise move for Kansans. Screening certainly has the potential to reduce health care expenses, and save families significant pain and anxiety when their child is later diagnosed with a disorder, perhaps after a lengthy treatment process. Senate Bill 346 is s good piece of legislation but needs a champion to have hope of passage. Legislators willing to work to get the bill passed certainly will benefit Kansas kids in the decades to come.