March of Dimes disputes task force report on testing newborns

August 06, 2000

The primary consideration should always be the health of babies

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., AUGUST 7, 2000 -- The March of Dimes takes issue with a new report on newborn screening tests published in the August issue of Pediatrics, criticizing the report for favoring costs savings over infant health.

In a statement issued today by March of Dimes president Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, the organization said the report "should have argued for the health of the consumers of these tests, babies and their families, rather than for a cost-benefit balance."

Approximately four million infants are born annually in the U.S. and tested for certain conditions that may threaten their life and long-term health, including certain genetic disorders. The Newborn Screening Task Force report published in Pediatrics was developed to review issues and challenges for state newborn screening programs.

"Although there is much in the report with which we agree, we take issue with it in several respects," Dr. Howse said. "There are several specific recommendations for newborn screening programs that we think should have been included in the report, but weren1t." The March of Dimes recommends:Dr. Howse said the report should have systematically examined all the currently available newborn screening tests, categorized them on the basis of urgency, and recommended best practices for consistency, quality, and timeliness of testing and reporting.

"When newborn screening tests for all treatable conditions are universally available and the quality of the tests is assured, it may well turn out this effort will be economically beneficial to health insurers," she said. "Nevertheless, the March of Dimes believes the primary consideration should always be the health of babies."
The report, "Newborn Screening: A Blueprint for the Future," by Michele Lloyd-Puryear, M.D., Ph.D., of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), and members of the Newborn Screening Task Force sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Genetic Services Branch of MCHB, was published today in Pediatrics, volume 106, issue 2 (supplement).

The March of Dimes commentary is scheduled to be published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies. More information is available on the March of Dimes website at

March of Dimes Foundation

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