NZ documentary profiles Newborn Screening Programme 

News article

30 June 2020

A new short film released this week profiles the life-changing work of the National Newborn Screening Programme, otherwise known as the ‘heel prick test’. 

The short film is the latest episode to be aired as part of the “Changing South” weekly web series created by Frank Film and funded by NZ On Air. You can view the film online at www.frankfilm.co.nz or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/frankfilmnz/.

Since 1969, the screening programme has ensured that every child born in New Zealand has the opportunity to be tested for serious metabolic conditions that could be life-threatening. Each year over 99% of all babies born in New Zealand are screened (about 64,000), and approximately 45 babies are identified and treated for a metabolic condition. 

New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to introduce newborn metabolic screening for all newborn babies, and over 50 years the programme has continued to be one of the most successful screening programmes in the world. 

The short film features the stories of several families and individuals who have been directly impacted by the screening programme. Their stories highlight the enormous difference that screening can make, not only for the lives of an individual but also for their family and their community. 

As an essential service, the programme continued to operate during all levels of the COVID response, and the release of the short film is being welcomed as a timely acknowledgement of the thousands of midwives and staff who continue to ensure the programme performs at a high standard, day in day out. 

“This short film really highlights the important work that all of those involved in the programme continue to make to the lives of so many New Zealand families and individuals,” says Jane O’Hallahan, Clinical Director, National Screening Unit. “Even through lockdown, the lab, hospital staff and midwives worked hard to ensure the programme maintained as high a coverage rate as possible despite the barriers created by the virus. This film is a great reminder of why we need to protect and maintain this important service.” 

Find out more about the newborn metabolic screening programme

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