TRENTON – In an effort to prevent instances of sudden cardiac death, Senator Fred H. Madden sponsored legislation that would require that all annual physical examinations given to children under the age of 19 include questions evaluating the child’s cardiovascular disease risk, and require health care practitioners who perform these examinations to complete training on cardiac screening. The bill was approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee.
“While sudden cardiac death is the number one killer among student athletes, we cannot ignore the fact that all children – regardless of whether they participate in sports – could be susceptible to heart conditions that cause sudden death,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “This bill is about expanding procedures for all medical examinations, so that every child receives a baseline evaluation about their cardiac health.”
The bill, S-2461, would require that all annual medical examinations of children under the age of 19 include questions contained in the “Preparticipation Physical Evaluation” form, which was developed jointly by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.
The “Preparticipation Physical Examination” form contains questions that aim to identify young people with cardiovascular disease risk with the goal of promoting health and avoiding sudden cardiac arrest. The form currently is used to evaluate a student’s cardiac well-being in advance of any participation in scholastic athletics. The bill would require that all physical examinations performed on children include these stringent questions about cardiac health, not only those that are required prior to participating in interscholastic or intramural sports.
In addition, the bill would require the Commissioner of Health to develop a cardiac screening professional development module to increase the assessment skills of those health care practitioners who perform annual physical examinations of children. Under the bill, a physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant who performs these examinations would have to complete the module as a condition of licensure renewal.
“Cardiac assessments are an effective way to catch warning signs early on and prevent the tragic death of children at risk,” said Madden. “When it comes to the health of our children, we cannot afford to take any shortcuts. This legislation will help ensure that medical professionals are properly trained to carry out cardiac screenings and all children receive comprehensive examinations.”
Approximately 2,000 apparently healthy children die suddenly from cardiac conditions each year in the United States. Risk factors of pediatric sudden cardiac death vary. While some cardiac conditions have no identifiable inheritable pattern, other cardiac conditions may be identified through a thorough evaluation of a child, along with his or her family history.
Senator Madden has been the leading legislative advocate for measures to promote cardiac health among children and student athletes in New Jersey. He helped create the “New Jersey Student Athlete Cardiac Screening Task Force” to find the best ways to increase awareness of the threat to young people and to identify ways to prevent the sudden and tragic deaths of those at risk. Following through on recommendations of the task force, Senator Madden authored a package of bills that includes the “Children’s Sudden Cardiac Events Reporting Act,” which would require the reporting of children’s sudden cardiac events and establish a statewide database to keep track of the information, and a measure that would require certain health insurers, such as health, hospital and medical service corporations, to provide coverage for an annual physical exam to determine if a student is able to participate in athletic or camp activities.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.