The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (Washington) said that the state of Florida will begin screening all newborns for cystic fibrosis (CF) starting July 1. Florida joins 36 other states in the country, plus the District of Columbia, to routinely screen for CF at birth.

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease that affects 30,000 children and adults in the United States. CF causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and other organs, causing life-threatening infections and serious digestive complications.

Research shows that screening for CF will likely improve and extend the lives of those born with the disease. Early diagnosis allows for affected infants to begin therapeutic interventions immediately. These interventions have been shown to help people with CF to maintain or improve lung function, as well as increase life expectancy and reduce hospitalizations. Early intervention has been shown to improve height, weight, and cognitive function as well.

“This is the right thing to do,” said Peter Hodge, a Boca Raton, Fla. father of two daughters with CF. Hodge’s 14-year-old daughter, Olivia, wasn’t diagnosed with the disease until she was a teenager. “We wish our daughter had been diagnosed at birth. That may have prevented some of the health damage she’s already suffered. I’m a big believer that knowledge is power and that newborn screening gives families that power.”