Labor Will End the Newborn Health Screening Lottery

  • Labor will make sure all Australian babies have a better start to life by expanding the newborn screening program.

  • Australia hasn’t updated its screening program since the 1980s - and children are going without treatment despite tests being available.

  • Labor’s plan will increase the number of screened conditions from around 25 to 80, helping kids get the care they need from the start.

Why do we need this?

Improving newborn screening will save lives.

Genetic and other early life conditions are the leading cause of death for young girls and the third highest cause of death for boys. Identifying these conditions earlier means kids can get the health care they need as early as possible.

Australia’s newborn screening program has not been updated since the 1980s. We only screen nationally for around 25 conditions, compared to 80 in the world’s best programs.

Help and early intervention is available for these rare diseases, but families are missing out because they don’t get a diagnosis.

Every Australian family should be able to access world-best screening, but at the moment it depends which State or Territory you’re in.

Currently a baby born in one State with galactosemia – an intolerance in sugars, including those in baby formula, that can delay development and cause blindness or death – could miss out on the early diagnosis. But if they are born in another jurisdiction, this would be picked up automatically.

Some babies with spinal muscular atrophy will be automatically screened and receive treatment before symptoms develop. But others will suffer irreversible damage because they are not diagnosed until symptoms develop.

Labor will put an end to this testing lottery by introducing a universal screening program.

The details

An Albanese Labor Government will:

  • Increase the number of genetic and early life conditions that newborns are screened for from around 25 to 80 – this is in line with world's best practice.

  • Work with the States and Territories to deliver a better national newborn screening program, including a regular process to update screened conditions on expert advice.

This important investment in the next generation will cost $38.4 million over the forward estimates.