Hawaii To Join California in Expanded Newborn Screening Pilot Program
Hawaii, which already mandates newborn screening for seven metabolic disorders, will begin a pilot program next month with California to test newborns for 30 additional "errors of metabolism," the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports. California, which received a three-year, $3.9 million federal grant to conduct research on newborn screening with a new technology called tandem mass spectrometry, asked Hawaii to participate in the program "partially because of its multiethnic population," state health officials said. Christine Matsumoto, coordinator of Hawaii's Newborn Metabolic Screening Program, said that the new pilot program -- which will be offered to children born in the next ten months at a Honolulu hospital -- will allow the state "to do supplemental testing at no extra cost to families and see what this kind of screening can do and build the program accordingly." The program will also allow doctors to identify metabolic disorders before symptoms develop, she said. Metabolic disorders can lead to a number of medical problems that affect a child's development, but treatment often provides "good outcomes" with early detection, Dr. Venkataraman Balaraman, an investigator for the pilot program, said. In the program, investigators will analyze newborn tests to determine whether mass screening "would be efficient and accurate" and will compare the results of tests on Hawaii's multiethnic babies to those in California. Hawaii also will use the results to determine "how often various disorders occur" in the state and whether "there is a pattern of diseases in different ethnic groups," Balaraman said.
Sylvia Au, genetics coordinator for the Children with Special Health Needs division of the state Department of Health and principal investigator for the pilot program, said that the new program will help doctors and the state decide "what to look for in babies and how much they are willing to pay" for newborn screening. The state currently charges parents of newborns a $27 "birthing fee," which includes screening for seven metabolic disorders, a confirmation test when required and a follow-up program. The cost with the tests for the additional 30 metabolic disorders would increase to about $40, Au said. "It's an extremely cost-effective program" that provides preventive care for newborns, Matsumoto added (Altonn, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 2/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.