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Baby, Look at Me Now! Jumbotron in Times Square Opens APHL/CDC Campaign Celebrating 50 Years Saving Babies' Lives

SILVER SPRING, MD -- (Marketwire) -- 11/29/12 -- With families flocking into New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, it was the right time to signal a year-long campaign to save babies' lives, thought Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). Becker's group is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to raise awareness about newborn screening, a nationwide program that tests the 4 million babies born annually for dozens of potentially lethal genetic conditions.

"We typically don't speak with the 'loud voice' of CBS's jumbotron in Times Square," said Becker," but we're proud of our record -- 50 years saving babies' lives! And since the scientific invention that made the newborn screening test available to every baby, occurred right here in New York State, it seemed like a good place to announce the campaign."

APHL represents the state and local public health laboratories in the US that fight disease outbreaks, test for food and waterborne disease, and solve public health mysteries, such as the entry point of the H1N1 virus into the US, and the source of contaminated bagged lettuce in California. State public health labs also analyze 97 percent of newborn screening tests.

"Public health labs are incredibly dedicated to their communities," Becker said. "Since the effects of some of the conditions screened for can begin to do damage within a short time frame, lab scientists feel compelled to get to their lab to maintain an unbroken chain of testing and reporting results back to hospitals, or directly to parents, if urgent retesting is required."

Their determination was challenged, but not daunted, recently during Hurricane Sandy, when lab staff dodged downed trees, winds and threatening waters in New Jersey to get to the lab.

"While many were running for higher ground, we were scheduling our staff to guarantee that screening would not be interrupted during the storm," said New Jersey Newborn Screening Manager Scott Shone, PhD.

"2013 marks the 50th anniversary of newborn screening in the US, starting in Delaware, Massachusetts and Oregon. Yet many parents and some healthcare providers are unaware of its benefits and achievements. Newborn screening saves 12,000 babies a year from the effects of debilitating conditions and even death," said Becker.

"We want parents to make sure their babies get the test, and that they take follow-through seriously if tests are positive. Sometimes all they need are a few words of wisdom from their healthcare provider. That's what this campaign is all about."

For more information, go to www.50yearssavingbabies.com.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories is a national non-profit located in Silver Spring, MD, that is dedicated to working with members to strengthen governmental laboratories with a public health mandate. By promoting effective programs and public policy, APHL strives to provide public health laboratories with the resources and infrastructure needed to protect the health of US residents and to prevent and control disease globally.

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