Date published: 
28 June 2022
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

Today, 28 June, is International Neonatal Screening Day, a day that celebrates the birthday of Dr Robert Guthrie, the American microbiologist who introduced the first dried bloodspot testing for rare disease.

Australian babies have been screened using Guthrie’s method since the 1960s. Each year, one in every 1000 Australian babies is diagnosed with a severe and life-threatening rare disease that would have gone undetected without newborn bloodspot screening.

The Albanese Government is committed to making Australia’s Newborn Screening Programs world class, which will save lives and deliver better care.

Australia’s screening program once led the world, but in recent times hasn’t delivered consistently for all Australians. We need to increase the number of conditions screened for all newborns no matter where they live. Falling behind can lead to delays in diagnosis of life-long health conditions and avoidable deaths.

The Government is committed to investing $38.4 million over four years to ensure consistency in screening across all states and territories, and expand programs in line with international best practice.

In a major milestone, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) has been recommended for inclusion in state and territory newborn bloodspot screening programs. SCID is a serious, life-limiting condition and early diagnosis by newborn screening allows for treatment to be undertaken before infections cause complications.

Over the coming months, newborn bloodspot screening programs will be reviewed and reformed. The Department of Health and Aged Care has already started this work in collaboration with key partners. The Department will be consulting widely and working closely with state and territory governments to ensure program expansion is implemented effectively. More details on this consultation process will be available soon.

QUOTES FOR ATTRIBUTION TO MINISTER BUTLER

“The Albanese Government will put an end to this testing lottery by introducing a universal screening program.

“Parents can be confident that no matter which hospital their child is born in their baby will be fully screened for rare conditions.

“The Albanese Labor Government is working with the States and Territories to deliver a better national newborn screening program, including a regular process to update screened conditions on expert advice.”

Ministers: