Alberta will soon be the first province in Canada to test newborns for cystic fibrosis.

Screening for the disease will begin in the new year as part of $30 million in new health programs for children announced by Health Minister Iris Evans on Thursday.

The money will be spent over three years, with $3.4 million going toward screening newborns with 13 additional conditions, including cystic fibrosis.

One in 3,600 babies has the disease, which causes breathing and digestion problems, said Cathleen Morrison, head of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Most tests for the disease are only conducted after symptoms are spotted, she said.

"When they finally go get diagnosed they already have established lung infection, which can be very difficult to get rid of, they have growth retardation — namely they're smaller — and they may even have some cognitive impairment."

Morrison is hoping Alberta's decision will help convince other provinces to test all newborns.