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O’Donnell, Wagner, Ramos Bill Requiring Life-Saving Screenings of all Newborn Hearts Signed Into Law

New Jersey, today, set a new national standard for newborn care with the signing of a law sponsored by Assembly members Jason O’Donnell, Connie Wagner and Ruben Ramos. The law (A-3744/S-2752), the first of its kind to pass on a national scale, mandates pulse ox testing – a simple, non-invasive, low-cost measure to help detect the most common birth defect, congenital heart disease, in newborns.

“I am thrilled New Jersey is the first state to mandate pulse oximetry testing on newborns,” said O’Donnell (D-Hudson), whose third child was born with a congenital heart defect. “This measure is about saving lives. Our newborns deserve the best care we can offer them, and pulse ox testing should be included in that care.”

“With the signing of this law, New Jersey is leading the way in improving how we deal with newborn screenings in this day and age,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “One test will not only protect newborns and parents, but also hospitals and doctors. I can think of no better present for any future parents than to know that we are putting into place a measure that will protect their child.”

Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) are the most common birth defects in newborns and affect about one out of every 100 babies.[1] CHD is also the number one cause of birth defect-related deaths in the United States.[2] Failing to detect critical CHD prior to letting a child go home can lead to life-threatening events, including cardiogenic shock and organ failure. New Jersey’s new law will require the pulse ox test to be performed on newborns who are at least 24 hours old.

“Every newborn saved through this test will make this law worthwhile,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “This is a simple, common-sense way to protect the lives of our children while also giving parents peace of mind. I’m proud that New Jersey is leading the nation in this endeavor.”

Other states are working on similar bills, including Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Tennessee. Minnesota has already implemented a pilot program to begin expanding routine screening in its hospitals. Maryland has signed a bill that would require screenings to be instituted if this test is adopted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

On a national level, the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (SACHDNC), working with the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, and other stakeholders, established standardized federal recommendations for screening and diagnostic follow-up of critical Congenital Heart Disease.

At the end of April, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stated that it is critically important to screen for CHD. She gave the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Newborn and Child Screening (ICCNCS) 90 days to review and close any gaps and provide a plan of action to implement the SACHDNC’s five recommendations for a national standard of screening and diagnostic follow-up.

[1] Children’s Heart Foundation

[2] March of Dimes