Newborn Screening

Updated 3/12/15

New Parents Targeted by Data Privacy Group May Have Questions About Newborn Screening

Thousands of new parents may have received a confusing letter in the mail in recent months from a small but vocal group seeking to limit the scope and resources of Minnesota’s newborn screening program.

The 3-page letter, sent by Citizen’s Council for Health Freedom, includes a number of false claims about newborn screening and suggests that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) may begin using “child DNA” for illegal purposes.

On the contrary, newborn screening involves testing chemicals in the blood, not DNA. There is only one test that necessitates looking at a gene (cystic fibrosis) and that is only if the child fails the chemical blood test. MDH does not keep extracted DNA on file.

At the urging of this group, dozens of alarmed parents have opted out of long-term storage of their child’s blood spot, taking an unnecessary and potentially dangerous decision.

The destruction of blood spots is not something to be taken lightly. A newborn’s blood spot provides a unique overview of his or her health at birth. It contains a variety of biological markers that can be helpful in identifying and treating certain diseases that may or may not be apparent right away. Once a newborn blood spot is destroyed, it can never be replaced.

As many of you know, restoring Minnesota’s newborn screening was a top legislative priority of MNAAP last year. Thanks to legislation that was successfully passed last year, Minnesota is once again among the majority of states that saves newborn screening data and results for an extended period to assure proper diagnosis, timely follow-up, and re-analysis, if necessary.

Please be sure to talk to families about the benefits of newborn screening and long-term storage. MNAAP is preparing a common letter that can be used and personalized by hospitals and clinics. Urge parents not to opt out!

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