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National Birth Defects Prevention Month and Folic Acid Awareness Week

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Update on Prevalence of Major Birth Defects — Atlanta, Georgia, 1978–2005

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The overall prevalence of birth defects in the metropolitan Atlanta area has remained stable over time, with some increased prevalence noted among preterm infants, infants born with low birth weight, males, and infants born to mothers 35 years of age and older. Birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies and are a leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at increased risk for developing many lifelong physical, cognitive, and social challenges.

Scientists at CDC studied the prevalence of birth defects during the years 1978-2005 in five counties in the central metropolitan Atlanta area. During this time, 2.8 percent of babies were affected with birth defects, so this shows that the prevalence did not change over time. However, the study showed that preterm infants, those born at a low birth weight, males, and those born to mothers 35 years of age and older had higher prevalence rates of birth defects. While the overall prevalence of birth defects did not change, increases and decreases were observed in some individual types of defects. On going tracking of birth defects is essential to detect variations in prevalence and evaluate possible reasons for such variations that might help identify causes and prevention strategies, and to ensure that adequate resources are allotted to address the special needs of affected individuals.

Use of Supplements Containing Folic Acid Among Women of Childbearing Age — United States, 2007

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All women, especially younger women ages 18 24 years, need to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily through supplements, fortified foods, or both in addition to a folate rich diet to prevent serious birth defects. The 2007 March of Dimes Gallup Poll found that 40 percent of women aged 18 45 reported daily consumption of a vitamin containing folic acid. Periconceptional consumption of folic acid, a B vitamin, reduces the occurrence of 50 70 percent of neural tube defects which are serious birth defects of the spine and brain affecting approximately 3,000 pregnancies each year in the United States. The survey found that women ages 18 24 had not only the lowest reported consumption (30 percent) but also their awareness (61 percent) and knowledge (6 percent) were lower compared to women ages 25 34 and 35 45. Health promotion efforts need to focus on younger women because they comprise approximately a third of all births in the U.S. to women ages 18 44 and have the highest rate of unintended pregnancies.

Worldwide Trends in Wheat Flour Fortification with Folic Acid and Iron — Worldwide, 2004 and 2007

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Consumption of adequate amounts of folic acid and iron are important for health and the prevention of neural tube defects. Fortification of wheat flour is an effective, simple, inexpensive strategy for supplying folic acid and iron to the population. The good news is that globally from 2004 to 2007, the number of persons with access to fortified wheat flour increased by nearly 540 million, and the annual number of newborns whose mothers had access to fortified wheat flour during pregnancy increased by more than 14 million. Efforts to expand fortification programs need to continue as two thirds of the world′s population still lacks access to fortified wheat flour and the folic acid and iron it provides. Costing only pennies per person per year, wheat flour fortification with folic acid and iron is one of the most cost effective public health interventions available. Consumption of adequate amounts of folic acid by women before pregnancy and during early pregnancy decreases their children′s risk for neural tube defects (NTDs). Adequate consumption of iron can eliminate iron deficiency, which is responsible for > 850,000 deaths per year, and billions of dollars in losses annually in reduced mental and physical productivity. The worldwide percentage of wheat flour fortification increased from 18 percent in 2004 to 27 percent in 2007. The number of persons with access to fortified wheat flour increased by nearly 540 million, and the annual number of newborns whose mothers had access to fortified wheat flour during pregnancy increased by more than 14 million. Nonetheless, more than two thirds of the world′s population lacks access to fortified wheat flour. Programs should continue to expand coverage of wheat flour fortification as a strategy to increase folic acid and iron consumption.

Prevalence of Neural Tube Defects and Folic Acid Knowledge and Consumption — Puerto Rico, 1996–2006

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Division of Media Relations
(404) 639–3286

All women, especially Hispanic women, need to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily through supplements, fortified foods, or both in addition to a folate rich diet to prevent serious birth defects. A new study shows that folic acid knowledge and consumption rates are declining among women of childbearing age in Puerto Rico. In addition, neural tube defect (NTD) prevalence rates are now increasing in Puerto Rico following an overall decline from 1996 through 2003. Researchers are unsure why folic acid consumption in Puerto Rico is decreasing—it could be several factors—however, it′s important for Hispanic women to know about the importance of folic acid, since they are at higher risk for having a baby with an NTD.

(QuickGuide) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0–18 Years — United States, 2008

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No summary available

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

  • Historical Document: January 10, 2008
  • Content source: Office of Enterprise Communication
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