WAUSAU (May 19, 2014) — On Saturday, May 17th, the American Heart Association in Wisconsin honored Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R—Marathon) with the Legislator of the Year award at the annual Wausau Heart Walk. The award is given each session to one legislator who goes above and beyond to champion cardiovascular health policies in the state Capitol.
Petrowski authored legislation to ensure all babies born in Wisconsin are screened for
potentially life-threatening congenital heart defects (CHDs), a priority for the American Heart Association. Research indicates performing a simple, non-invasive test on newborns can help detect serious heart problems before they go home. In September 2011, the Health and Humans Services Secretary recommended all states consider adding the screening and since then 35 states have added it to their newborn screening programs.
“This past session, one of our main priorities was to ensure all babies are screened for CHDs,” said Brad Gast, Chair of the American Heart Assciation’s Wisconsin Advocacy Committee and a constituent of Petrowski. “It was a long road, but through it all there was one legislator who stood by our side, led the way in the Capitol, and never gave up, and that’s Jerry Petrowski.”
“I am deeply honored to receive this award from the AHA, and I am proud of the work we were able to accomplish this session. A simple, painless pulse oximetry test is a small price to pay for the long, healthy life of a child,” said Sen. Petrowski.
Ultimately, a separate bill passed giving the Department of Health Services the authority to consider adding the screening. Prior to passage of this legislation, the department’s authority to add screenings was limited to blood and urine based screenings, which the CHD screening is not.
“Senator Petrowski has been an absolute champion on this issue,” said Nicole Hudzinski,
Government Relations Director with the American Heart Association. “Without his efforts and continued advocacy, we would not be in the position we are today. We give our heartfelt thanks.”
The American Heart Association and Sen. Petrowski continue to work with the Department of Health Services to officially add CHD screening in Wisconsin.