On Your Side: Newborns in the Ozarks get different screenings based on zip code

Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 9:13 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There appears to be a big gap in the Ozarks when it comes to screening newborns. Where you live determines the number of tests your newborn baby gets.

The tests look for certain conditions that might not be obvious to the eye. A few you might recognize like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, but many are so rare they impact just a handful or a few hundred children nationwide. But could have life-altering or deadly consequences.

Mercy pediatrician Dr. Robert Garner says early detection gives babies and parents more time.

“They let us know if these babies are at risk for severe disabilities and death. If we can catch them early, they can have a longer and healthier life in many cases,” he said.

All of Christy and Kayne Schroeder’s children were born in a Missouri hospital. They got the heel prick. Results were normal.

“It’s good to know. Especially if there’s something wrong with your child,” said Christy Schroeder.

The Recommended Uniform Screening Panel, or RUSP is an ever expanding list of conditions created by a federal committee. Right now, the panel recommends children get tested for 37 conditions. Each state decides which screenings. It creates disparities from state-to-state. No state does all 37, but Missouri is close, 36. Many states require tests that are not on that federal list which yields an even bigger gap.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Missouri babies are screened for a total of 63 conditions. In Arkansas, it says 33, but state officials tell On Your Side it’s now 35.

“There is some unfairness that some get --- they maybe missed,” said Dr. Garner.

“That’s kind of scary. What if their child has something wrong and they did not get tested for it?” said Christy Schroeder.

Because each state does its own testing, the way conditions are counted, might be different.

“They may look at a state and say you’re screening for 70, obviously you’re the best. And you’re screening for 30, you’re terrible, but they maybe screening for exactly the same thing,” said Susan Tanksley, Laboratory Manager at Texas Department of State Health Services.

Doctors we talked to, want that to change.

“I hope we can continue to use that to advocate for universal screening for babies born in our country,” said Dr. Garner.

Doctors tell On Your Side this is just another reason to keep regular follow-up appointments with your child’s pediatrician. That way they can continue to monitor your child’s growth and development.

Many of these conditions are hereditary, so if there’s a disease in your family, be your child’s advocate and ask how they can get the test.

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