September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month

September 19, 2022

September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month, and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Newborn Screening Program tests newborns for more than 50 heritable disorders and other medical conditions.

Newborn screening is a public health program that tests spots of blood from all newborns for certain conditions that are not noticeable at the time of birth, but can cause serious disability, or even death, if not treated quickly.

Texas began screening all babies for one disorder in 1965. Now, newborns undergo two rounds of screening tests for 55 disorders, most of which are inherited. They also receive tests that check their hearing and for congenital heart disease.

DSHS follows the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel in determining which conditions to screen for, as state funding allows, said Newborn Screening Group Manager Amy Schlabach.

According to DSHS, about 370,000 babies are born in Texas each year, and about 1,000 of those babies are diagnosed with one of the 55 screened conditions annually. The DSHS state laboratory runs an average of more than 700,000 screenings on newborns every year.

Program employees said the DSHS state laboratory handles an average of 2,500 samples per day, six days a week Monday–Saturday.

“The staff are aware of the importance,” said Rebecca Tangalos, a newborn screening lab educator. “They’re doing this for the babies.”

For more information, visit the DSHS Newborn Screening Program website.