Newborn screening is a state public health service intended to identify infants who may be at an increased risk of certain disorders. Many consider newborn screening the most successful public health program in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed newborn screening as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the last decade.*
The term “newborn screening” refers to the collective group of conditions screened at birth including dried blood spot, hearing, and Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). Our focus for this post is on Newborn Screening dried blood spots.
Every infant born in South Carolina is screened for unexpected medical conditions by collecting a blood sample, or blood spot specimen, from the infant’s heel 24 to 48 hours after birth. Five blood spots are obtained from approximately 57,000 infants born in South Carolina every year. Once dried and packaged, those blood spots are sent to the South Carolina Public Health Laboratory, where they are assessed for proper testing criteria also known as a satisfactory specimen collection.
If the laboratory deems the collection as unsatisfactory, those specimens are rejected, and the lab is unable to test for more than 50 disorders that are identifiable during the newborn period. Many of these disorders are time-critical or life-threatening. A repeat specimen is then requested, and a pediatrician, hospital, or health department is tasked with recollecting the specimen. This process can lead to a critical time delay of identifying an infant with a time critical disorder, timely diagnosis and treatment. Getting it right the first time, every time is important for all babies born in South Carolina.
In June 2019, the Newborn Screening Program, along with partners from the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA), traveled to McLeod Health Clarendon in Manning, SC. This recent visit was to recognize the hospital staff for achieving 100% satisfactory blood spot specimens in 2018. When the nurse manager, Debi, received a call from DHEC to acknowledge her facility’s accomplishment, she was pleasantly surprised. She revealed that her staff began to champion their newborn screening blood spot collection after attending the DHEC “First Time, Every Time” dried blood spot collection training workshop.
The processes implemented after the training guided them along a journey for success. Here is what Debi had to say: “I could not be prouder of my diligent and conscientious Women’s Services team at McLeod Health Clarendon; they truly exemplify our mission of providing excellence in healthcare! We would also like to thank the SC DHEC newborn screening team for making such a positive impact in the health care of all South Carolina newborns!” -Debi Love-Ballard, R.N., Director of McLeod Health Clarendon’s Women and Infant Services.
McLeod Health Clarendon was the only South Carolina hospital to accomplish the goal of 100% satisfactory bloodspot specimen collection in 2018. Approximately 400 infants received their results in a timely manner without experiencing a repeat collection process.
Congratulations McLeod Health Clarendon. Their impact on the babies born in their community is a true representation of DHEC’s vision of Healthy People, Healthy Communities in South Carolina.
For more information about newborn screening, visit https://scdhec.gov/health-professionals/lab-certification-services/newbornscreening and https://www.babysfirsttest.org/.
* Koppaka, R Ten great public health achievements – United States, 2001–2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly. Rep. 2011;60(19):619–623