June 1997

State-to-State Variations in Newborn Screening Policies

Author Affiliations

From the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(6):561-564. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170430027005

Background:  Population-based newborn screening for genetic and metabolic disorders is standard practice in all states in the United States. Policies governing newborn screening are determined at the state level; however, and thus, a great degree of variability exists between states regarding many facets of such screening.

Objective:  To gather information relating to the processes, content, and outcomes of policy making affecting newborn screening programs across the United States.

Methods:  We surveyed the directors of newborn screening programs for each of the 50 states using a postal questionnaire. The questionnaire solicited information about the specific tests incorporated in each state's panel of screening tests and information pertaining to the policy-making processes by which decisions are reached regarding this testing.

Results:  Substantial variation exists across states regarding both the processes of policy formulation and the outcomes of decisions made about newborn screening. All states currently screen for phenylketonuria and congenital hypothyroidism. Extensive variation exists across states in testing for other disorders. The processes by which state policy makers arrive at decisions in this area are extremely diverse. Almost three fourths of the states have standing expert advisory bodies who issue recommendations regarding screening program modifications, but the authority granted to these panels varies substantially. Some regional cooperation in this area exists.

Conclusions:  Further development of regional cooperation could offer some states greater efficiency in both laboratory testing and screening policy formulation. From the standpoint of an individual state, Wisconsin's approach to policy development in this area is described as a model worthy of consideration.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:561-564