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Sun Gazette: Officials Launch Effort to Detect Heart Problems in Newborns Print


Created:  Thursday, June 5, 2012 

A new health initiative targeting the heart health of newborns is likely to save lives, a group of bipartisan supporters of the measure said as planning moves forward.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) joined Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources William Hazel in Fairfax County on June 29 in detailing the state government’s effort to screen babies for critical congenital heart disease.

Approximately four in every 1,000 newborns is affected; the test, to determine the level of oxygen in the bloodstream, will be administered after the child is 24 hours old.

Hope patroned legislation in the 2012 General Assembly session to develop a plan for making screening widespread across the commonwealth. While the measure passed both houses of the legislature on a bipartisan basis, Gov. McDonnell vetoed it, saying screening plans could be developed administratively. Hope accepted the governor’s promise on the matter, and dropped a bid to override the veto.

Hazel and Hope were joined by medical professionals during a forum at Children’s National Specialists of Virginia on June 29 to discuss efforts to move forward. They announced that the federal Health Resources and Services Administration had provided a $900,000 grant in support of the effort.

The initiative puts Virginia “in the vanguard of states offering this important newborn screening, which has such an impact on the lives of children and families,” said Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children’s National Medical Center, who took part in the forum.
As part of the effort, the medical center and Baby’s First Test have produced two videos to help parents and clinicians understand the screening.
Hope said the screening – called pulse oximetry – is simple, painless and inexpensive.

“We know that screening will improve health outcomes and save lives,” he said. “I’m so honored to be part of this effort, with the ultimate goal to screen every baby born in Virginia.”

As part of an executive order, McDonnell directed the Department of Health to submit a report on the status of its efforts to address screening by Dec. 1, and the report will be forwarded on to the relevant committees of the legislature.