Maritime newborn screening program expands

Published on April 1, 2014

Newborn babies in Nova Scotia will soon benefit from earlier detection and treatment of certain conditions such as cystic fibrosis (CF) and hemoglobinopathies, including sickle cell anemia (SCA) and thalassemia as the first stage of a systematic expansion of newborn screening services that began  on Tuesday, April 1.



“The IWK is pleased to be the screening centre for the Maritimes. Here at the IWK we strive to make a difference and to offer the best possible care to the patients and families we serve. The expanded Newborn Screening brings us one step closer to that vision,” said Allan Horsburgh, vice president, operations and  support services and CFO in a media release.


Babies born in Nova Scotia are currently screened for 13 conditions. They are screened for a number of serious but treatable conditions (metabolic, endocrine and blood disorders). This expansion of newborn screening will add sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and eight additional conditions to the screen panel. Newborn screening is part of the Provincial Government’s broader initiative to ensure families will have better access to the supports they need for children to get a strong start in life. This expanded program was made possible with the help of funding from the 2013-14 provincial budget.


“When we can detect a condition early, we have a greater chance at treatment and helping patients manage their condition,” said Health and Wellness Minister, Leo Glavine. “The expansion of the newborn screening program means some of the newest and most vulnerable members of our province can be diagnosed earlier, receive treatment sooner and have better health outcomes later in life.”


The Nova Scotia Newborn Screening Service will be renamed as the Maritime Newborn Screening Program to better reflect the broader reaching, interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to care. The IWK Health Centre does newborn screening for all babies born in Nova Scotia and the majority of screening for babies born in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.


Although provincial newborn screening services have been provided by the IWK Health Centre for many years, beginning April 1, the IWK is more formally integrating the next steps, which in the case of a positive screen, brings together the integrated team of laboratory professionals (testing) and medical specialists, including but not limited to genetic counsellors, physicians, dieticians and physiotherapists.


This new program will now implement a support process for parents whose infants screen positive. These new screens and early diagnoses will contribute to better program planning and service delivery at a provincial level. Early detection and treatment can prevent severe, permanent disabilities and lead to longer, healthier lives, improved quality of life, and reductions in the number of Emergency Room visits and hospitalizations.



Education for families, public and health care providers is another key component of this newborn screening expansion. All educational materials will be available in English and French.


For more information about Newborn Screening, visit