Decreasing Infant Mortality
It is the goal of the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department's Newborn Screening Program to help decrease the morbidity and mortality of infants born in Tennessee through customer-oriented, high-quality newborn screening follow-up, case management, and outreach education.
What the Law Says
According to the Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA 68-5-401) Part 4 - Newborn Testing - Metabolic Defects
, every infant born in the State of Tennessee is screened shortly after birth for a number of genetic disorders. Although most babies are born healthy, all babies are tested because children with genetic disorders often appear healthy at birth.
Newborn screening is a public health activity aimed at early identification of newborns affected with certain genetic and/or metabolic conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment of these conditions have been proven to reduce infant mortality, premature births, mental retardation, and other development disabilities. Early diagnosis and treatment can make the difference between a child leading a relatively normal life or having more significant developmental delays or long-term health care needs, or even issues leading to death.
The Shelby County Health Department has a comprehensive genetics program that provides access to genetic screening, diagnostic testing, and counseling services for individuals and families who have, or are at risk for, genetic disorders.
Two major aspects of the genetics program are newborn screening for genetic / metabolic disorders and newborn hearing screening for early detection of hearing loss.
Genetic / Metabolic Disorders
Newborn screening allows for early diagnosis of metabolic disorders, followed by appropriate medical treatment. All babies born in Tennessee are screened for 41genetic conditions, including PKU/T4/CAH, galactosemia, and sickle cell. If any of the tests are abnormal (showing a possible disorder), the Newborn Outreach Unit (charge nurse) of the Shelby County Health Department follows up with the baby’s doctor and/or baby’s parent(s) to initiate retesting, confirmation, and treatment from a specialist, if necessary.
Newborn hearing screening allows for early diagnosis of hearing loss and appropriate follow-up services. Early detection gives parents the most effective opportunity to take action to help prevent the complications of inability to communicate, trouble reading, difficulty learning, and isolation that may come with hearing problems.
To date, more than 4,400 infants have been screened and case managed by the Newborn Screening Unit. All babies born at The Regional Medical Center (The MED)
at Memphis are screened and any abnormalities are referred to the Shelby County Health Department for case management follow-up, to include home visitation and outreach education.