(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 of life.
(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 those infants.
(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.