Alaska’s EHDI Program is located in the Children’s Health Unit within the Section of Women’s Children’s and Family Health (WCFH). This section is one of nine sections in the Division of Public Health (DPH) which resides in the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). The section has taken a leadership role in promoting newborn hearing screening throughout the State of Alaska since 2001, having designated a staff position to oversee the goal of universal newborn hearing screening, detection and intervention. Currently, the State EHDI Program staff consists of a Program Manager and support from an Administrative Clerk. This year a Health Program Associate will be added to provide more advanced support and to aid in analysis of data from the EHDI database.
By 2003, all 21 birthing hospitals in Alaska were on board with newborn hearing screening. State facilitation assisted two communities – Barrow, in the extreme Northern Region of the State, and Juneau, in the Southeast region of the State – in obtaining hearing screening equipment with sponsorship from their local Lions Club. Through a partnership with Public Health Nursing, the section purchased and equipped eight Public Health Centers with ALGO-Automated Brainstem Response (AABR) screeners in regions of the State identified as either not having a birthing hospital or having a high rate of out of hospital births.
To track Alaskan infants across vast regions of the State and reduce loss to follow-up after newborn screening, the State of Alaska contracted with OZ Data Systems to implement a web-based data system. The database went “live” in June of 2005. It is managed by the Children’s Health Unit in the Section of Women’s, Children’s, and Family Health. In 2005, staff from all twenty-one birthing hospitals and eight public health centers were trained on the database and these facilities are currently entering demographics and birth screening results into the database. The State EHDI Program facilitates ongoing database trainings to address the consequences of staff turnover and ensure consistency in data entry; three database trainings for newborn hearing screeners residing throughout Alaska were held in Anchorage in 2007.