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April 16, 2001
Contact: CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Press Release

New Center on Birth Defects and Disabilities Launches Today at CDC
Interim Director and Senior Management Official Named

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established a new center which will focus on growing public health concerns – birth defects and disabilities. Created by the Children's Health Act of 2000, CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) will work to improve the health of children and adults by preventing birth defects and developmental disabilities, promoting optimal child development, as well as ensuring health and wellness among children and adults living with disabilities.

Dr. José F. Cordero has been named as the interim director. Dr. Cordero has extensive public health experience in the field of birth defects and developmental disabilities. Ms. Barbara R. Holloway has been selected as the interim senior management official. Over the past 20 years, she has served the agency in a variety of positions. She has been asked to chair many special projects at CDC, including the review of child care needs, which led to the establishment of an on-site Child Care Center.

CDC's Director Dr. Jeff Koplan stated: “I am pleased that Dr. Cordero will lead the development of this new center. CDC has both a responsibility and an unprecedented opportunity to apply our current knowledge to improve the lives of children and to support research to prevent birth defects and disabilities. Dr. Cordero will make an invaluable contribution to these important health challenges. I am also pleased that Ms. Holloway has accepted the challenge of helping to launch this new center to help us protect the health and welfare of Americans affected with birth defects and disabilities.”

Birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States and affect more that 150,000 infants born each year. In addition, 17% of U.S. children under the age of 18 have some type of developmental disability. Among the total U.S. population, an estimated 54 million people currently live with a disability.

The new center, located at CDC's Chamblee campus, will incorporate some of the staff, programs, and activities that were formerly part of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health. The new Center's key public health roles include working with state health departments, academic institutions, and other public health partners to accomplish the following program components:

  1. Monitor birth defects, developmental disabilities, and the health and wellness of individuals living with a disability.

  2. Support research to identify causes or risk factors and develop strategies for prevention of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and for the secondary conditions associated with disability. Current programs include:
    • Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention
    • Centers of Excellence for Autism Epidemiology
    • Disability and Health Research Grants

  3. Promote programs to prevent birth defects, developmental disabilities, and promote wellness among people with disability such as:
    • a national educational campaign to promote the use of the vitamin folic acid to prevent spina bifida;
    • prevention programs for fetal alcohol syndrome
    • state programs to track newborns with hearing loss
    • The Living Well with Disability Program

About Dr. Cordero

Dr. Cordero received a medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico in 1973, and he completed residency training in Pediatrics at Boston City Hospital and a fellowship in Medical Genetics at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1979, he obtained a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University and joined CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer. He was assigned to CDC's Birth Defect Branch, where he spent more than 15 years addressing birth defects, developmental disabilities, and other child health issues. In 1994, Dr. Cordero was appointed Deputy Director of CDC's immunization program and has contributed to the substantial achievements in controlling many vaccine-preventable diseases.

About Ms. Holloway

Ms. Holloway received her undergraduate degree from Siena College in 1969 and her M.P.H. from Emory University in 1979. Ms. Holloway began her career at CDC 27 years ago in the Tuberculosis Program as Director of Training. She has worked in Infectious Disease Programs, including Hospital Infections. Since 1988, she has served as Deputy Director of the Epidemiology Program Office (EPO), and during that time, also served as Acting Director of EPO on three occasions under three CDC Directors. She accepted an inaugural appointment to the CDC Executive Partnership Council and has been active in leadership programs including the Public Health Leadership Institute and, most recently, the Advisory Committee of the Leadership and Management Institute (LMI).

More information can be found at:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

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This page last reviewed April 16, 2001

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