ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – University of Michigan researchers will use a $2.5 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study long-term health outcomes and cost-effectiveness of newborn screening.

This study, led by Dr. Lisa A. Prosser, Ph.D., M.S., could impact lawmakers’ recommendations on panels of tests given to newborns for potentially harmful disorders.

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The five-year, multi-disciplinary study will use computer modeling to simulate clinical trials of newborn screening programs. The study aims to provide comparative effectiveness evidence and cost-effectiveness results for newborn screening for three rare, but potentially disabling or fatal, conditions:

  • Krabbe disease, a degenerative disorder that affects the nervous system
  • Pompe disease, an inherited disorder that disables the heart and skeletal muscles
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU), an inherited disorder that can cause intellectual and developmental disabilities if not treated

Prosser, an associate professor of pediatrics and a core faculty member of U-M’s Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit, said new technology has made it easier and less expensive to screen newborns for additional disorders.

“However, there are costs and potential harms associated with screening follow-up and treatment,” she said in a release. “It’s important to recognize both the benefits and costs of newborn screening programs. Decisions about new conditions for mandatory screening should also reflect public opinion for public health priorities.”

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The study will also conduct a survey of public values for newborn screening programs. This information will be of direct interest to state and national policy makers when considering new conditions for recommended newborn screening panels.

By combining information from primary data collection, systematic reviews, published and unpublished data, and expert opinion, study investigators will project long-term health and economic outcomes for conditions that can be detected by newborn screening.

The project team will include investigators from a wide range of disciplines who have expertise in evidence synthesis, policy analysis of newborn screening programs, and clinical expertise. The project will also include an advisory committee that includes representatives from state and federal agencies, clinical experts, and patient advocacy groups to insure policy relevance and provide recommendations for disseminating research findings.

Prosser’s research often focuses on comparative and cost-effectiveness of children’s health interventions. She is a member of the external evidence review group for the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children. She also holds adjunct faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

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Co-investigators on this project include Beth Tarini, M.D., M.S. (University of Michigan), Wen Ye, Ph.D. (University of Michigan), Alex Kemper, M.D., M.P.H. (Duke University), James Perrin, M.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital), and Janice Bach, M.S. C.G.C. (Michigan Department of Community Health).