The North Carolina Chapter of March of Dimes, in conjunction with the American Heart Association (AHA) celebrated Valentine’s Day with the introduction of legislation aimed at detecting critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) in infants through pulse oximetry screening. Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive screening test that helps identify newborns with heart defects and potentially save their lives. House Bill 105, introduced by Representative Jim Fulghum (Wake) and a companion Senate Bill to be introduced by Senator Andrew Brock (Davie) will add this simple test to the state newborn screening panel.
“Screening newborns for critical congenital heart disease is a great way to help with early detection. It can improve health outcomes for babies with significant health problems but who appear well in the newborn nursery. Adding it to newborn screening is the perfect way to make sure that all babies are screened, regardless of where they are born in the state,” said Dr. Alex Kemper, associate professor of Pediatrics at Duke University.
“We decided this was an easy recommendation because critical congenital heart disease is well known, well described and detectable,” said Representative Jim Fulghum, the bill’s lead sponsor and a Wake County neurosurgeon. “Patients, doctors and hospitals agree that this is a necessary neonatal step to evaluate infants while they are in the hospital. It will prevent children from leaving the hospital who will soon return in distress because of an undetected heart defect. We believe it will pass,” said Fulghum.
"I am a parent and the spouse of a medical professional. Giving our children a healthy start in life is one of the most important things we can do for the future of North Carolina,” said Senate bill sponsor Andrew Brock. “This legislation will ensure that babies born with heart defects are screened and get the care they need."
“As a medical provider, I know the importance of early intervention when heart defects are found and this simple screening saves lives and ensures a healthy start for North Carolina children,” said bill co-sponsor Representative Mark Hollo, chair of the House Committee on Health and a physician’s assistant from Taylorsville.
The North Carolina Chapter of March of Dimes, in conjunction with the American Heart Association have implemented a multi-faceted and integrated approach to getting the bill across the finish line. The North Carolina chapter will host their annual Advocacy Day, March 6, 2013. March of Dimes volunteers from across the state will be gathering in Raleigh to speak out about key advocacy issues affecting mothers and babies in North Carolina. The March of Dimes Public Affairs agenda focuses on public policies and programs that relate to the foundation's mission -- improving the health of infants and work.
Each year, the North Carolina March of Dimes invests in mission initiatives statewide, including research grants and local community services. Through these program services, the March of Dimes continues to strive to prevent birth defects and infant death, reduce North Carolina’s premature birth rate, increase access to prenatal care and educate men and women about having healthy babies. Premature birth touches half a million babies and their families every year including 1 in 8 babies in North Carolina in an average year.
In September 2012, the American Heart Association launched “You’re the Cure for Healthy Babies,” a grassroots campaign to engage North Carolinians to call on their state elected officials to pass legislation requiring pulse oximetry screening for all newborns before they leave the birthing center or hospital. Advocates have been completing and gathering teddy bear cards urging support of the issue. On February 26, AHA advocates will be in Raleigh for their annual state lobby day and will be presenting cards collected all over the state to their elected officials.
In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life. Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive. Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects. About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all have benefitted from March of Dimes lifesaving research and education.