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Press Release

For Immediate Release
May 3, 2005
Contact: CDC Media Relations

Office of the Surgeon General, CDC, and Eva LaRue Join Mother's Day Celebration; Highlight Steps Women Should Take To Give Children a Healthy Start

Moms and would-be moms will receive an early Mother's Day gift when the Office of the Surgeon General; Dr. José F. Cordero, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and Eva LaRue, daytime drama actress and celebrity spokesmom, come together on May 4, 2005, at 10 a.m. ET at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York, to highlight steps women should take to give children a healthy start.

CDC is sponsoring this event as part of the Surgeon General's 2005 - the Year of the Healthy Child, focusing on improving the body, mind, and spirit of the growing child. This starts with the importance of healthy life choices before pregnancy, while pregnant, and during a child's early development.

The importance of learning about developmental milestones and early warning signs cannot be underestimated. In fact, recent data presented at the Society for Research in Child Development meeting showed that 55 percent of parents with children younger than 4 years of age reported they do not know the early warning signs of autism, one of the more severe developmental disabilities. In a related study with data from DocStyles, 9 of 10 physicians agree that autism interventions are best if started before school age, however 50 percent of autism cases remain unidentified until children are in kindergarten.

"People say that children are our future. I say that children are also our present," said Surgeon General Carmona. "Their dreams are today's dreams. Their hopes are today's hopes. Their needs are today's needs. Because of that, we cannot put off their needs until tomorrow."

The Surgeon General will highlight steps that women should take to give children a healthy start, especially if they are considering becoming pregnant. This includes maintaining a healthful diet, exercising regularly, and eliminating tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Birth defects affect approximately 120,000 (1 in 33) newborns in the United States each year; they are the leading cause of infant death and contribute substantially to illness and long-term disability.

"Not all birth defects can be prevented, but a woman can increase her chance of having a healthy baby by following healthy practices, such as taking multivitamins containing folic acid and avoiding alcohol consumption," said CDC's Dr. José Cordero.

A healthy lifestyle should continue once the child is born. In addition to the child's physical growth, parents should also focus on their child's communication, social and emotional development. It is important for parents to note when, and how often their baby smiles, when their child starts to speak and begins pretend-play, and how their child interacts with others. If parents notice anything unusual, they should talk with their child's doctor or health care professional. In some cases, a problem might resolve with more time, but in other cases, a "wait and see" approach could delay opportunities to take action.

"By recognizing the signs of developmental disabilities early, parents can seek effective treatments that can help their child reach his or her full potential," said Dr. Cordero.

A recent CDC campaign, Learn the Signs. Act Early teaches parents about developmental milestones that children should reach by a certain age (for example, at 7 months, 1 year, and 2 years) Parents can get information and free materials in English and Spanish by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO or visiting

"As a mother of a 4-year-old, I want the best possible future for my child," said Eva LaRue. "I remember when Kaya, my daughter, first smiled back at me, said 'mama', and waved bye- bye. Now I know these are important developmental milestones, just as important as tracking my baby's height and weight."

The New York Hall of Science is a hands-on science and technology center in the New York City area, featuring more than 400 hands-on exhibits, and is the location of CDC's campaign event starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2005. In addition to standard museum activities, parents will have a unique opportunity to use special campaign interactive kiosks to learn more about their child's communication, social and emotional development. Experts will also be on hand to answer questions on developmental milestones. The event is free and open to the public.

Editor's Note: Media interested in covering the event or setting up an interview should contact CDC's Division of Media Relations, 404-639-3286 or

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This page last updated May 3, 2005

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