House Gives Initial Approval to Legislation Expanding Screenings of Newborns (HB 66)
The Missouri House gave first-round approval this week to legislation that would expand screenings of newborns in Missouri to look for two more life-threatening diseases.
The bill would require that infants be screened for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and mucopolysaccharidosis II (MPS II), otherwise known as Hunter syndrome. Both are genetic diseases that can be fatal. Supporters say the earlier they are detected, the better outcomes can be.
The sponsor said the bill, “gives families hope and it gives us a chance to save the lives of even more babies here in Missouri.”
SMA results in a loss of physical strength that can include a lessened ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the leading genetic cause of death for infants. Hunter syndrome is caused by an enzyme deficiency that results in the buildup of harmful molecules that can affect a person’s appearance, mental development, organ function, and physical abilities. An estimated 2,000 people have Hunter syndrome worldwide, with about 500 of those living in the U.S.
Medication to treat SMA was fast-tracked and approved in late December of 2016 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There is no cure for Hunter syndrome, but earlier detection could improve the lives or increase the lifespan of those children who have it.
The sponsor of the bill believes there should be little or no additional cost to screen for SMA, and screening for Hunter syndrome can be done “very reasonably.” The bill would make the additional screenings subject to annual funding by the state, and would allow the Department of Health and Senior Services to increase its newborn screening fees to pay for the additional tests.
The bill now requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
State Legislators Go Red to Raise Awareness of Heart Disease
Red was the color of the day in the Missouri State Capitol on Wednesday, February 8 as legislators and staff came together to raise awareness of the rate of heart disease in women. Hundreds of individuals were decked out in red attire as part of the American Heart Association’s “Wear Red Day,” which was started in 2003 and has become an annual event in the Missouri General Assembly.
While many think of heart disease as a man’s disease, the truth is that heart disease and stroke kill one out of every 3 women. In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States – second only to all types of cancer combined. Ninety-five percent of adult women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, and almost half of women are not aware of the risks. Awareness is crucial because 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.
Members and staff of the House and Senate come together each year to do their part to make women aware of the simple changes they can make to promote a healthier and longer life.
FFA President Colton Spencer Reminds Legislators of the Importance of Agricultural Education
The FFA State Officer Team visited the State Capitol Tuesday to remind legislators of the importance of agricultural education in the state. The group was on hand to represent the more than 26,000 students who are currently involved in FFA. They provided legislators with information showing that 342 high schools and career centers currently offer agriculture classes, and that more than 28,000 students are enrolled in agricultural education programs. In 2015, there were more than 5,400 agricultural education graduates in Missouri. Ninety-five percent of the graduates either went on to continue their education or secure employment, with 64 percent of them pursuing agriculture as a career.
In keeping with tradition in the Missouri House of Representatives, FFA President Colton Spencer addressed House members to discuss the mission of the organization. Spencer noted that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act that led to the creation of Career and Technical Education in the United States. Eleven years later in 1928, 33 high school students from 18 states met in Kansas City Missouri, for the first ever National FFA Convention. Their efforts created what is now the nation’s largest school-based youth organization boasting nearly 650,000 members.
As Spencer said in his address, “For 89 years the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, has given individuals an opportunity. An opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills in the areas of applied science, technical and employability skills, while learning about our nation’s #1 industry: agriculture.”
Spencer also noted the three goals of FFA, which are to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture. He concluded his remarks by thanking legislators for their dedication to Missouri and its residents, and by asking that they work together to advance the three goals of FFA.