March 5, 2008
ATLANTA — The March of Dimes is making a House call—the House of Representatives that is. Last Thursday (February 21), the March of Dimes and volunteers from around the state met with legislators to discuss several issues, the most important of which is passage of House Bill 1177, reports the organization. This measure would require the state of Georgia to administer a hearing screen to all newborn infants.
Hearing is one of the 29 identifiable and treatable “core” disorders recommended for screening by the March of Dimes and the American College of Medical Geneticists (ACMG). Georgia currently requires screening for 28 and does not include hearing.
“Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia require universal newborn hearing screening,” says March of Dimes Georgia Chapter’s State Director Mark Gibson. “It is critical that the state of Georgia step up and join the majority of the nation by providing the highest quality of care for all of our infants.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all babies be screened for hearing impairment before 1 month of age, preferably before they leave the hospital. Language and communication develop rapidly during the first 2 to 3 years of life, and undetected hearing impairment can lead to delays in developing these skills. Without newborn screening, children with hearing impairment usually are not diagnosed until 2 to 3 years of age.
House Bill 1177 is sponsored by Representative Judy Manning. In 2006, Representative Manning sponsored House Bill 1066, which expanded newborn screening to detect serious illnesses, severe disabilities, or potentially deadly genetic conditions that can be prevented if diagnosed and treated, and the bill was successfully passed in 2006.
In recent years, the March of Dimes has successfully lobbied for a reform to Georgia’s health care system to require newborn screening. Screening is critical because it can identify disorders before symptoms arise and treatments can immediately begin. Lack of treatment can cause physical disabilities, mental retardation, and even death. The goal of early hearing screening, diagnosis and treatment is to help children with hearing impairment develop language and academic skills equal to those of their peers. Most states have an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program to help ensure that all babies are screened, and that infants who do not pass the screening receive the follow-up care they need.
SOURCE: March of Dimes Georgia Chapter