It's National Newborn Screening Awareness Month, designed to bring attention to the public health benefits of newborn screening, which can prevent lifelong disabilities, even death, by identifying rare medical conditions early and starting immediate treatment.

"New Jersey is a leader in protecting the lives of children with newborn screening," said State Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd.  "Our state was among the first to screen newborns and recently became the first state to mandate screening for critical congenital heart defects."

Governor Christie signed the first-in-the-nation legislation last year which requires all birthing facilities licensed by the Department of Health to perform pulse oximetry screenings a minimum of 24 hours after birth and on every newborn in its care.  The screenings can protect newborns from potentially life-threatening congenital heart defects.

Currently, New Jersey mandates that all babies born in the state be screened for 54 specific genetic, metabolic, endocrine and hemoglobin disorders, as well as hearing loss and critical congenital heart defects.  Within 48 hours of birth, a small blood sample is taken from the heel and analyzed for certain disorders so that, if needed, follow-up and medical treatment can be started immediately to prevent life-long disabilities and even death.