New York State Department of Health Recognizes National Sickle Cell Awareness Month

Department is Educating Residents About the Disease, Early Screening, and Donating Blood

Sickle Cell Predominately Effects the Black Community

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 20, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes National Sickle Cell Awareness Month by educating New Yorkers about the blood disorder and the importance of early screening and donating blood.

"Sickle Cell is a serious disease that predominately affects the Black community," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Sickle Cell not only takes a devastating toll on individuals who have the condition, but on their loved ones as well. We urge residents to learn about our Newborn Screening Program, in which babies are screened for the disease, and ask that individuals consider donating blood, which can benefit patients with sickle cell."

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that affects the hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the body, within the red blood cells. A genetic mutation produces abnormal hemoglobin that causes the red blood cells to turn sickle-shaped and clump together. These sickle-shaped cells cause blockages in blood flow, which can lead to anemia, pain, infections, and other severe complications. The only cures for the disease are stem cell transplants or newly emerging Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology.

The condition affects more than 100,000 people in the United States and 20 million people worldwide. In the U.S., most people who have sickle cell disease are Black. About one in 13 Black babies are born with the sickle cell trait and about one in every 365 Black babies are born with sickle cell disease. Each year, sickle cell disease is detected in 150-200 babies in New York State.

Sickle cell disease also occurs in people from Hispanic, Southern European, Middle Eastern or Asian Indian backgrounds.

The New York State Newborn Screening Program, which provides screening for more than 50 diseases, including sickle cell, has the goal of helping affected babies live long and healthy lives. Newborn screening refers to medical tests, the majority of which are genetic, performed to identify babies at high risk for a panel of disorders, which without medical intervention, cause significant morbidity in newborns, and even death. Early diagnosis and treatment of these disorders lead to better outcomes for the newborn.

The program effectively identifies babies at high risk for screened disorders and is required by law for all newborns born in New York State unless the parents confirm, in writing, that they have a religious objection.

The Department remains committed to educating New Yorkers about sickle cell, as well as the importance of newborn screening. The Department also urges New Yorkers to learn about blood donation because people with sickle cell can benefit from blood transfusions.

Information about the New York State Newborn Screening Program can be found here.

Living With Sickle Cell Disease can be found here.

Locations for New Yorkers to donate blood can be found here.