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Groundbreaking Pulse Ox Legislation Awaiting Governor Christie’s Signature

Today New Jersey Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, (D-31), submitted testimony to the 24th Meeting of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (SACHDNC) regarding the need to implement a national standard of care concerning pulse oximetry, a non-invasive, low-cost test that would identify congenital heart defects. Congenital Heart Defects are the most common birth defect in newborns and affect about 1 out of every 100 babies.[1]

“I have the privilege of submitting this testimony to you today not only as a legislator who has proposed a bill to mandate pulse oximetry testing in the state of New Jersey, but also as a father of a son who survived Congenital Heart Disease. As you can tell, this issue is near and dear to my heart. But more importantly – it just makes sense,” O’Donnell’s testimony begins.

“In 2011, in the greatest nation on earth, there is simply no excuse for newborn children dying because a small, non-invasive test that costs less than $10.00 has not been utilized to check for heart defects.”

O’Donnell sponsored the New Jersey legislation, A-3744/S-2752, which would require the pulse ox test to be performed on newborns who are at least 24 hours old. With only a handful of other states having similar measures pending, New Jersey could be the first state in the nation to legislatively implement the life-saving measure if Governor Christie signs it into law soon.

CHD is the number one cause of birth defect related deaths in the United States.[2] Failing to detect critical CHD prior to letting the child go home can lead to life-threatening events including cardiogenic shock, and organ failure. This year approximately 4000 babies will not live to see their first birthday because of CHD.[3]

“Will my bill in New Jersey solve all heart issues for all newborns? Of course not. There are still many issues to confront, such as less access to health care in rural areas and disparities in health insurance in lower socio-economic areas. However, this should not deter us from moving forward with actions that will save lives. Pulse Ox is a first step, not a final solution. There is more work to be done,” O’Donnell’s testimony continues.

“I hope and pray that New Jersey can help lead the way to saving the lives of newborns with CHD. Our children deserve nothing less than the best healthcare we can afford them. We can afford them this simple, non-invasive, low-cost test.”

Other states are working on similar bills, including Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Minnesota has already implemented a pilot program to begin expanding routine screening in its hospitals.

The SACHDNC, working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and other stakeholders, established standardized federal recommendations for screening and diagnostic follow-up of Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). At the end of April, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stated that there is critical importance of screening for CHD. She has tasked the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Newborn and Child Screening (ICCNCS) with immediately (within 90 days) reviewing and closing any gaps within and providing a plan of action to implement the SACHDNC’s five recommendations for a national standard of screening and diagnostic follow-up.