LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is one of 10 states that don’t require newborns to be screened for a critical heart problem, but state health officials have been working to educate health care providers about the benefits of the testing.
Most Kansas hospitals and birthing facilities screen newborns for critical congenital heart disease even though they aren’t required to do so. But about a third, mostly in rural areas that don’t have a lot of births, don’t provide the screening, The Lawrence Journal World reported (http://bit.ly/1pRur5c ).
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been traveling across the state to train doctors and nurses to perform the screening and raise awareness about its importance.
Some advocates for screening, however, say the state should mandate the screening, which costs about $4 per test.
“If you don’t catch it, these babies can be sent home and there can be tragic results,” said Kevin Walker, regional vice president of advocacy for the American Heart Association. “The screening has been proven effective. It’s inexpensive. It’s noninvasive. There’s no reason not to require it.”
About 1 out of every 500 children born in the U.S. has a critical congenital heart defect, or CCHD. Babies with the defect generally need cardiac surgery or catheterization within the first year of life. If it’s detected and corrected early, the children can lead healthy lives.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has suggested the test be added to its recommended uniform screening panel. However, state health officials say their statewide, voluntary initiative is preferable to pursuing legislation requiring the screening.
State Rep. Barbara Bollier, a retired anesthesiologist who is on the House Health and Human Services Committee, said politicians should not be telling doctors how to do their jobs.
“As a physician, I think it’s dangerous for us to try to start legislating the practice of medicine,” she said. “Things that are good become standard of care through medical practice. What if we started passing laws for everything a doctor should be doing at a checkup and pass a law for every way you should treat cancer? That wouldn’t make sense.”
State health department officials say the voluntary program has already increased use of the screening from 30 percent of birthing facilities across the state, covering 78 percent of Kansas births, to 70 percent, accounting for 93 percent of births.
“We’re hoping that by the end of the year we’ll be at around 100 percent of the births,” said Rachel Sisson, director of KDHE’s Bureau of Family Health.
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