Health Groups Call For Acclelerated Spina Bifida And Hydrocephalus Prevention And Care Worldwide

PUSH! Global Alliance Issues Report Cards, Calls for Folic Acid Fortification on World Birth Defects Day

White Plains, NY | Thursday, March 3, 2016

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An international group of organizations working together on spina bifida and hydrocephalus is calling on the public and policy makers to take action to prevent these serious birth defects in observance of the second annual World Birth Defects Day.
 
The PUSH! Global Alliance (People United for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus) today launched its website and Global Report Cards providing country-level information on hydrocephalus and spina bifida prevention efforts, access to care, quality of life, and availability of prevalence and mortality data. See the information online at www.pu-sh.org.

PUSH! also called on governments around the world to fortify food items with the B vitamin folic acid, which has been proven to prevent spina bifida and other serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Foods that are typically fortified with micronutrients include breads, ready-to-eat cereals, cereal snack bars/biscuits/bakes, energy drinks, fruits juices, milk/ milk substitutes, dairy/fat spreads and yogurt/yogurt drinks.

The March of Dimes, Spina Bifida Association, and several other partners have filed a Citizens Petition with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for corn masa flour to be fortified with folic acid in order to prevent more NTDs in the Hispanic community.  March 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of FDA’s decision to require folic acid to be added to all enriched wheat grain foods.

Each year, an estimated 300,000 babies worldwide are born with NTDs, PUSH! says.  Health experts in the United States and other countries also recommend that all women of childbearing age take a daily multivitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid to prevent NTDs.

Chile, South Africa, and the U.S. have compared the costs of adding folic acid to flour with the costs of treating people with spina bifida. Each study showed significant annual net savings in healthcare expenses when spina bifida is prevented (see citations below).

Please join the World Birth Defects Day partners on Twitter on March 3, using hashtag #worldbdday, and help awareness by telling a story about the impact of birth defects on you and your family. You also can participate in the World Birth Defects Day Thunderclap -- register in advance by going to http://thndr.it/1Ab9njC.

PUSH! is the global voice for organizations worldwide working to better the lives of people living with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. The goals are to advance surveillance and prevention efforts, to improve quality of care, and to eliminate disparities in access to care, through research, communications and capacity building.

For more information about World Birth Defects Day, go to www.icbdsr.org.

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Annual net savings of folic acid fortification:

  • Llanos, A., et. al., Cost-effectiveness of a Folic Acid Fortification Program in Chile. Health Policy 83 2007:295-303.
  • Sayed, A., et.al., Decline in the Prevalence of Neural Tube Defects Following Folic Acid Fortification and Its Cost-Benefit in South Africa. Birth Defects Research 82 2008:211-216.
  • Grosse, S., et. al., Retrospective Assessment of Cost Savings From Prevention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , 2016.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org for more information. Visit shareyourstory.org for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.