Funding for birth defects activities

The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) is funding the largest case-control study of birth defects ever conducted the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The nine regional centers located in TX, NY, IA, MA, NC, GA, AR, UT and CA participating in the Study identify infants with major birth defects; interview mothers about medical history, environmental exposures, and lifestyle before and during pregnancy; and collect DNA samples to study gene-environment interactions. The findings from this study are being used to develop intervention and treatment strategies. For example, in 2009 researchers found that women who were overweight or obese before they became pregnant had an approximately 18 percent increased risk of having a baby with certain heart defects compared with women who were of normal body mass index (BMI) before they became pregnant.

The NCBDDD also funds community-based birth defects surveillance systems, programs to prevent birth defects, and initiatives to improve access to health services for children with birth defects. Surveillance is the backbone of a vital, functional and responsive public health network. Preventing costly and sometimes tragic birth defects is an important public health priority that requires a sustained commitment of resources. An increase of $5 million for the Birth Defects General line is needed in FY 2010 to ensure a robust and comprehensive birth defects program at CDC.

The daily consumption of the vitamin folic acid has been shown to significantly reduce serious birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Since fortification of U.S. enriched grain products with folic acid, the rate of those birth defects has decreased by 26%. The CDC estimates, however, that up to 70% of neural tube defects could be prevented if all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. To achieve the full prevention potential of folic acid, CDC's national public and health professions education campaign must be expanded.

A $2 million increase for the Folic Acid Education Campaign is needed to enable CDC to inform more women about the benefits of folic acid. This increase would also enable CDC to explore implementing other campaigns designed to help prevent obesity and educate women about medication use during pregnancy.

Birth defects: Basic facts

  • Each year, an estimated 120,000 babies are born with major structural birth defects.
  • One in five infant deaths is due to birth defects, making them the leading cause of infant mortality.
  • Birth defects of the heart and circulatory system are the most common, affecting roughly 1 in 115 newborns.
  • Severe birth defects may require special lifelong medical treatment. Because many conditions cannot be fully corrected, birth defects are a major cause of childhood and adult disability.
  • Hospital costs for stays due to birth defects totaled $2.6 billion for all birth defects and all ages in 2004. More than half of all hospital costs were related to cardiac and circulatory birth defects. Associated costs of physician care and other outpatient medical services are not included in this figure.

FY11 recommended report language
Birth Defects, Developmental Disabilities, Disability and Health
Birth Defects Research and Surveillance.--The Committee commends the CDC's work in the area of birth defects surveillance, research and prevention and has provided $5,000,000 above the fiscal year 2010 level for CDC to analyze genetic samples obtained through the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The Committee believes it is important to begin analyzing these samples because the identification of genetic risk factors for certain birth defects will further preventive efforts by targeting interventions to women at the highest risk for certain defects.

Folic Acid Education Campaign.--The Committee provides an increase of $2 million above the FY10 level to expand the folic acid education campaign. The Committee also encourages CDC to explore strengthening this campaign by incorporating other prevention education initiatives aimed at improving birth outcomes, such as obesity prevention and medication use during pregnancy.

For more information contact Emil Wigode or Carolyn Mullen, March of Dimes Office of Government Affairs (202) 659-1800.

Most common questions

What federal agencies are involved in premature birth research?

Multiple federal agencies support prematurity-related research but among the most engaged are the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health and Maternal and Infant Health Research within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Where can I learn more about the National Children's Study?

The March of Dimes has advocated for the study since its inception, realizing the critical information that will come from systematically examining the effects of environmental and other influences on the health and development of 100,000 children across the United States.

Why is the data collected from birth certificates important?

Information that is collected on birth certificates is vital to understand trends, to determine the infant mortality rate, and to guide decisions for intervention programs and for research. State laws require birth certificates to be completed for all births, and federal law mandates national collection and publication of births and other vital statistics data by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn more on the NCHS website and understand the strict privacy standards covering individuals.

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