Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

Block’s AB1731 requires lifesaving testing of newborns for heart disease

September 17, 2012 (San Diego)--Little Caleb Peltier celebrated his second birthday today at the Balboa Park playground with his parents, his brother and some new friends who all celebrated the fulfillment of the one birthday wish they all had for the toddler who has experienced more familiarity with hospitals, surgeries, and emergency rooms than many adults.

The birthday wish? That Gov. Jerry Brown sign AB 1731 by Assemblymember Marty Block which would require medical screening of newborns to detect a hidden killer – critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).  The measure is co-sponsored by the March of Dimes and the American Heart Association. On Saturday, the Peltiers’ wish was granted when the governor signed Block’s legislation.

“AB 1731 gives babies a fighting chance to beat the ticking time bomb that is critical congenital heart disease,” Block said. “While working on this bill, I’ve learned of heartbreaking stories from parents who take their babies home, full of joy, only to return within a few days or weeks to emergency rooms because their infant’s breathing faltered, and then organs began to shut down as the disease revealed itself,” Block stated. “Early detection means early intervention and healthier futures for our children.”

“March of Dimes has long championed these types of newborn screening bills, and we are so thrilled that the Governor has signed AB 1731,” said March of Dimes California Chapter State Director Karyn DeMartini.  “This is a great day for families in California.”

Heart defects are the most common birth defects in the United States, and about 4,800 (or 11.6 per 10,000) babies born every year have the life-threatening heart conditions known collectively as CCHD. Routine pulse oximetry to measure oxygen levels can successfully identify newborns with CCHD. During the screening, clips are attached to the infant’s hand and foot, and the oxygen levels are noted on a device a little larger than a bedside radio.

Caleb, who helped inspire the legislation, celebrates his second birthday on Tuesday. His parents – mom Casey and dad D.J. – are ardent advocates of the bill.

“At three days old, our son Caleb was rushed to Tri-City Medical Center where he was diagnosed with congenital heart disease and stabilized, he was then transferred to Children's Hospital to wait for open heart surgery,” say the Peltiers.

“This simple and painless test would have alerted us prior to leaving the hospital at birth to the need for early intervention for Caleb. We still have our son with us, but far too many parents lose their children to this disease. We thank Gov. Brown for signing this life-saving legislation into law.”

Larry B. Anderson, chief executive officer at Tri-City Medical Center and president of the San Diego-Imperial Chapter of the March of Dimes also celebrated the governor’s approval. It was his hospital where Caleb received the initial stabilization that saved his life and helped him survive the needed surgery. “We are so pleased the governor signed this legislation and that families will now have this simple test to guard against devastating heart problems,” Anderson said.  “The Peltier family worked hard to see this bill enacted, and we applaud their courage.”

The screening saves medical costs in addition to saving lives and family anguish.

“Since the implementation of the CCHD screening test at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center we’ve identified three babies who would have gone home undiagnosed to face a significantly lower chance of survival and much higher medical-related costs,” said March of Dimes Medical Advisor Dr. Balaji Govindaswami.  “This quick $3 test could help avert more than $250,000 in medical costs and will save many babies’ lives.”

American Heart Association Western States Affiliate, CEO, Roman J. Bowser commended the Governor for signing this life-saving legislation to protect the hearts of the tiniest Californians.

“Starting July 1, 2013 this simple, non-invasive test will help to minimize the potential negative effects of critical congenital heart disease,” Bowser said. “This is another example of California’s innovative leadership in prevention.”

American Heart Association San Diego Division Chair Tony Grover noted that infants already are screened for hearing, vision and other health conditions, but not critical congenital heart defects. “Eight states provide this screening. California now will become the ninth in the country to step up for babies,” Grover said. “Nearly one in three infants who has a birth defect dies from a heart defect. We could save these tiny lives if newborns were appropriately screened before being discharged from the hospital.”

Kaiser Permanente was one of the first health care organizations to implement universal pulse oximetry screening as a policy across its health care system. “This painless test takes only a few minutes to perform and has made a difference in saving lives and promoting healthy babies and children, “said Matthew T. Sebald, MD FAAP, Chief of Neonatology at Kaiser Permanente San Diego.

In September 2011, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added screening for CCHD to the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel. There are 31 core conditions on this panel and California already requires newborn screening for the other 30 core conditions.

In addition to the March of Dimes and the American Heart Association, AB 1731 was supported by the California Medical Association, the California Chapter of the American College of Cardiologists, the Children’s Specialty Care Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System, Tri City Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Mended Little Hearts and others.

Assemblymember Marty Block represents the cities and communities of Bonita, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Diego and Spring Valley.

Web site: