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The mission of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) is to save babies by studying and addressing the causes of birth defects; help children reach their potential by understanding developmental disabilities; reduce complications of blood disorders; and improve the health of people living with disabilities.

To achieve its mission, the Center works to:

  • Identify the causes of birth defects and developmental disabilities;
  • Help children to develop and reach their full potential; and
  • Promote health and well-being among people of all ages with disabilities, including blood disorders.

Our vision is: Babies are born healthy. Children reach their potential. And everyone thrives.

NCBDDD became a Center at CDC in April 2001 as a result of the Children’s Health Act of 2000, passed by Congress and signed into law by former President Clinton. Currently, the Center includes three divisions—the Division of Congenital and Developmental Disorders, the Division of Human Development and Disability, and the Division of Blood Disorders.

Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies and are a leading cause of infant death in the United States1. More than 5,000 infants die each year because of birth defects2. In addition, about one in six, or about 15%, of children aged 3 through 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities3.

CDC and its partners are working to change these figures. With more information, the causes of these birth defects and developmental disabilities can be identified – and action can be taken to protect our children, and to develop new ways to help women have healthy babies.

Three girls laying on the floor with their chins in their hands

Helping Children Reach Their Full Potential

Much of our work focuses on protecting people who are especially vulnerable to health risks – including children. The early years of life (birth to 5 years of age) are critical to a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. CDC works with partners to develop public health tools and interventions that give all children the opportunity to reach their full potential.

People with Disabilities

Anyone of any age can have a disability. An estimated 374 to 575 million Americans report having some level of disability. People with disabilities need health care and health programs for the same reasons anyone else does – to stay well, active, and a part of the community. To be healthy, people with disabilities require health care that meets their needs as a whole person, not just as a person with a disability.

Our Center works to ensure that people of all different abilities are able to live their life to the fullest. Our work focuses on promoting the health of people with disabilities, and preventing complications or other health conditions secondary to a person’s disability.

Protecting the Health of People with Blood Disorders

Blood disorders – such as sickle cell disease, anemia, and hemophilia – affect millions of people each year in the United States, cutting across the boundaries of age, race, sex, and socioeconomic status. Men, women, and children of all backgrounds live with the complications associated with these conditions, many of which are painful and potentially life-threatening. With proper preventive actions and early intervention, many of these disorders and their complications could, to a large extent, be eliminated. We are dedicated to reducing the public health burden resulting from these conditions by contributing to a better understanding of blood disorders and their complications; ensuring that prevention programs are developed, implemented, and evaluated; ensuring that information is accessible to consumers and health care providers; and encouraging action to improve the quality of life for people living with or affected by these conditions.

From Beginning to End, a Better Life for All

Grandmother, mother, and daughter sitting together

It might be the greatest wish all people have for themselves and their loved ones: a healthy, happy life. Often, when one’s mind and body work perfectly, good health is taken for granted. Yet millions of people live every day with some form of disability, facing limitations in daily life activities. This includes infants and children with birth defects, genetic conditions, blood disorders, and developmental disabilities such as intellectual disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and vision problems. These children might have challenges as they grow and learn about life, and often face more health problems as they grow older.


L Rynn, J Cragan, MD, A Correa, MD, PhD, Div of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC. Update on Overall Prevalence of Major Birth Defects — Atlanta, Georgia, 1978—2005. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2008;57(01);1-5.

Mathews TJ, MacDorman MF, Thoma ME. Infant mortality statistics from the 2013 period linked birth/infant death data set. National vital statistics reports; vol 64 no 9. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015.

Boyle CA, Boulet S, Schieve L, Cohen RA, Blumberg SJ, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Visser S, Kogan MD. Trends in the Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities in US Children, 1997–2008. Pediatrics 2011;27: 1034-1042.

U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table S1810; generated by Michael H. Fox, using American FactFinder; (16 July 2013).

Brault MW. Americans with disabilities: 2010. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau; 2012.

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