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Senate endorses 2 Downing heart-healthy initiatives
November 14, 2013

BOSTON Today the Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved two heart-healthy bills sponsored by Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield): S. 1008, An Act relative to newborn pulse oximetry screenings for congenital heart defects and S. 231, An Act relative to cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification for athletic coaches.
 
Both are significant items on Downing’s 2013 legislative agenda, and are shared priorities of the American Heart/American Stroke Association (AHA). The AHA is the largest voluntary health organization in the world, working to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
 
"These bills have a common goal -- reducing the amount of people who die from heart disease each year in Massachusetts,” said Downing. “In 2010 we lost 12,043 of our friends, neighbors and family members to heart disease. If the implementation of either of these proposals reduces that number by one, in my mind they have been a success.”
 
S. 1008 requires all Massachusetts newborns to be tested for congenital heart defect through pulse ox screening at hospitals and birth centers before they are discharged. Pulse ox, a non-invasive screening test, can identify infants with a congenital heart defect and newborns at risk for heart defects and potentially save their lives.  This commonsense measure is in place in twenty-seven other states across the nation; the bill’s implementation date here in the Commonwealth is January 1, 2015.
 
Prior to today’s Senate action S. 1008 was reviewed and given a favorable report by the Joint Committee on Public Health, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. 
The AHA reports that congenital heart defects affect approximately 8 of every 1,000 live births annually. They are the most common birth defects in the United States and the leading killer of infants with birth defects.
 
“This is a sensitive, non-invasive, low cost test that can make a big difference,” said Dr. Gerald Marx, American Heart Association Founders Affiliate Board Member and Pediatric Cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “By passing this bill, and making pulse oximetry screening mandatory on all newborns across Massachusetts, we will be protecting our youngest babies through early detection of previously undiagnosed congenital heart disease.”
 
Downing’s second bill engrossed today, S. 231, requires athletic coaches employed by public school districts to hold a current certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). While nearly 383,000 people suffer from cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, only 11% survive, most likely because they did not receive timely CPR. When administered right away, CPR greatly enhances survival rates. 
 
“Sudden cardiac arrest can happen any place, any time. Less than 1 in 3 people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a medical setting receive CPR from a bystander,” said Dr. Aaron Baggish, American Heart Association Greater Boston Board Member and Cardiologist at Mass General Hospital. “Ensuring that our Massachusetts school-based athletic coaches be trained and certified in CPR means that they will be optimally prepared to respond to an on field emergency and in a position to save lives.”
 
Downing has sponsored similar legislation in the previous two legislative sessions; it was passed by the Senate in February 2012. This session S. 231has been reviewed and endorsed by both the Joint Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. 
 
“Hopefully, these bills will provide new parents and doctors the information they need to identify and treat heart disease, and give youth athletic coaches the skillset necessary to address heart disease when it rears its ugly head. Ultimately, our goal is for fewer families to deal with loss, pain, and tragedy," said Downing.
 
Both bills will now advance to the House of Representatives for review and consideration.
 
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