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Press Release

For Immediate Release
September 9, 2005
In Atlanta: CDC Press Office
(404) 639-3286

In Beijing: Sheila Paskman
Public Affairs
U.S. Embassy in Beijing
(86-10) 6532-3431, ext. 7051 or

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Sponsors the Second International Conference on Birth Defects and Disabilities in the Developing World

Experts from around the world will meet in Beijing, China, September 11 – 14, 2005, to share research on birth defects and disabilities prevention and provide an outlook on birth defects in the developing world. Scientists from several U.S. Department of Health and Human Service agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will discuss the latest in birth defects surveillance, research, prevention, care, and delivery of services and, the need for more research to better understand birth defects and how to prevent them.

Expressing her vision for the future of children, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said “Imagine a world where every baby is healthy. Well we know there are proven things women can do to make sure their baby gets off to a good start in life including taking multivitamins with folic acid everyday, not smoking or drinking alcohol while pregnant or making sure they have received rubella vaccine at least one month before becoming pregnant. As health professionals we must work together to help women achieve these steps and to improve the health of infants around the world.”

The conference will provide a foundation to strengthen the ability of all nations to prevent birth defects and related disabilities. In addition, participants will be able to identify steps to overcome gaps and disparities between developed and developing nations, to lessen the effects of birth defects on infant mortality, and to generate global partnerships.

“Birth defects are common health problems around the world, especially in the developing world,” said by Dr. Jiang Zuojun, Chinese Vice Minister of Health and chairman of the conference. “Our children are our future. The Chinese government strongly supports birth defects and disability prevention here in China, and will work together with country governments throughout the developing world toward a world of healthy children.”

The conference is co-sponsored by China’s Ministry of Health and the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. The Chinese Ministry of Health has played a vital role in reducing neural tube defects by promoting the use of folic acid for women before they become pregnant. Neural tube defects are major birth defects of a baby’s brain or spine.

"The March of Dimes remains committed to the effective prevention of birth defects on a global basis,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “This conference will contribute to a working agenda for governments, professionals, and parents to improve infant health."

Preventing birth defects and disabilities will play an even more important role in developing countries as they continue to reduce infant mortality due to better control of infectious diseases through immunizations, safe food and drinking water, and better nutrition. Reducing mortality by two-thirds among children younger than 5 years old has also been set by the United Nations as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals, all 191 United Nations member nations have agreed to meet this goal by 2015. In countries where infant mortality has been reduced to less than 50 per 1,000 live births, birth defects are emerging as the most common cause of neonatal deaths, these deaths account for 30 to 50 percent of perinatal mortality and 20 to 30 percent of infant mortality.

Conference presenters include Dr. Arnold Christianson, Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and Dr. Zhu Li, MPH, Director of the National Center for Maternal and Infant Health at Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing, China.

Findings will be presented on:

  • Primary prevention of neural tube defects with folic acid.
  • Impact of birth defect-related disabilities on children and their families, and the community in developing countries.
  • Genetic causes of birth defects.
  • Elimination of congenital infections, including congenital rubella syndrome.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome in low-and medium-resource countries.
  • Birth defects surveillance networks.
  • Strategies and country-specific examples of effective care models.
  • Tools to set up care and prevention programs and measure the impact of birth defects and genetic diseases.
  • Health policy development.

Additional sponsors and partners for the conference include the World Alliance of Organizations for the Prevention and Treatment of Genetic and Congenital Conditions, World Health Organization (WHO), All-China Women’s Federation, Center for Public Nutrition and Development of China, International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research, Task Force for Child Survival and Development, Peking University Health Science Center, and National Fragile X Foundation.

The conference will be held September 11 – 14, 2005, at the Jiuhua Spa and Resort (located 40 minutes from Beijing International Airport at Chang Ping Xiao Tang Mountain, 102211 Beijing, China, (86-10) 617-822-88). For more information about the conference, visit:

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This page last updated September 9, 2005

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