CHAPTER 16. PUBLIC HEALTH.
ARTICLE 22B. BIRTH SCORE PROGRAM.
§16-22B-1. Legislative findings; intent; purpose.
(a) The Legislature hereby finds that until 1984, West
Virginia had one of the highest rates of postneonatal mortality in
the United States, which is defined as infants dying between one
month and one year of age. In the early 1980s, studies in West
Virginia showed that infants at greatest risk of dying during the
first year after birth had poor attendance at regular physician
visits and often received minimal health care. The system for
assessing infants at risk for postneonatal mortality, debilitating
conditions and developmental delays was erratic and many West
Virginia physicians were poorly trained about risk assessment.
Uniform guidelines for at-risk infants to enter care did not exist.
(b) In 1985, the birth scoring system, a cooperative effort
between the division of health and the West Virginia university
department of pediatrics was initiated. The goals of the scoring
system were: (1) To identify newborns at greatest risk for death
between one month and one year of age; and (2) to link high risk
infants with physicians for close follow-up during the first year
(c) Since its inception, the birth scoring system has been
expanded to identify and link infants at risk for debilitating
conditions and developmental delays with necessary and available
services. The program has been greatly successful in identifying
at-risk newborns and in obtaining appropriate medical care for
(d) With the success of the birth scoring system at reducing
postneonatal mortality rates in the state, it is the intention of
the Legislature to establish the birth score system as a universal,
preventive program to be enacted at the delivery of each newborn in
the state. The purpose of this article is to ensure that all of
the state's birthing hospitals and facilities adopt and implement
this prevention program.
§16-22B-2. Birth score program established.
(a) The division of health within the department of health and
human resources is hereby authorized to establish and implement a
birth score program designed to combat postneonatal mortality and
to detect debilitating conditions and possible developmental delays
in newborn infants in the state.
(b) The purpose and goals of the birth score program are to
reduce the incidence of postneonatal mortality and disease by:
(1) Identifying newborns at greatest risk for death between
one month and one year of age; and
(2) Linking these infants with physicians for close follow-up
during the first year of life.
(c) The birth score of a newborn infant shall be determined
pursuant to the program established by the division of health by
trained hospital or birthing facility personnel immediately after
the infant is delivered.
§16-22B-3. Determination of birth score; referral to physician.
(a) Any hospital or birthing facility in which an infant is
born, any physician attending the infant, or any other person
attending the infant if not under the care of a physician, shall
require and ensure that a birth score is determined for the newborn
infant in order to assess the level of risk for postneonatal
mortality, debilitating conditions and developmental delays:
That no birth score shall be determined or birth score
program implemented if the parent or guardian objects to the birth
score program on the grounds that it conflicts with their religious
tenets and practices. Any infant delivered at a nonlicensed
facility, including, but not limited to, home births, shall have a
birth score determined by the child's primary physician within ten
days of birth, subject to the exception set forth in this
(b) When any infant receives a high risk birth score, as
determined by the program established by this article, the parents
shall be informed of the birth score and its implications, and then
linked with a local primary care physician for a recommended six
visits in the first six months of the infant's life.
(c) The division of health, in cooperation with other state
departments and agencies, may provide necessary medical and other
referrals for services related to infants determined to be at high
risk for postneonatal mortality and other debilitating conditions
and developmental delays.
On or before the thirtieth day of June, one thousand nine
hundred ninety-eight, the division of health shall propose rules
for legislative approval in accordance with the provisions of
article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code as may be needed
to establish the program, ensure compliance and assess penalties as
needed to implement the provisions of this article.