Message from the Director

Message from the Director. Karen Remley

Over the past year, NCBDDD staff have continued to step forward in unimaginable circumstances—facing the ongoing global threat of COVID-19 by bringing the best public health recommendations to communities daily. I have seen first-hand the late nights, early mornings, and weekends that staff have dedicated to protecting our health and safety—while simultaneously balancing the same challenges of working from home and navigating child care and virtual schooling. To say the 2021 year was challenging is truly an understatement. COVID-19 has affected—and continues to affect—our community’s wellbeing. The populations we serve at NCBDDD are continuing to experience barriers as they navigate their way through the pandemic, as well as the racial intolerance that came to a tipping point over the last year. This report not only summarizes NCBDDD’s programmatic and fiscal achievements for 2021, it demonstrates our resolve to promote the health and well-being of babies, children, and adults.

As we continue to face this global health crisis, the inequities in our health systems have become even more evident. During the Fall of 2021, NCBDDD embarked on a strategic visioning and planning process to define our goals promoting and supporting CDC’s CORE Commitment to Health Equity. This agency-wide strategy aims to integrate health equity into the fabric of all we do:

  • Cultivate comprehensive health equity science
  • Optimize interventions
  • Reinforce and expand robust partnerships
  • Enhance capacity and workforce engagement

To create change and further advance the health equity movement, NCBDDD is tackling barriers to health equity through its programs in several areas. NCBDDD Health Equity Goals are

  • Better understand the use of voluntary corn masa flour fortification to increase folic acid intake among US Hispanic women to reduce the risk of neural tube defect-affected pregnancies.
  • Identify health inequities among individuals living with birth defects and related disorders through improved surveillance and propose possible pathways to address the health inequities.
  • Identify health inequities in the early identification and intervention of children with developmental disabilities through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network and the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program.
  • Establish national reporting of disability status and gender identity for persons with bleeding disorders to inform their health status and service needs, promote early identification of disability, and reduce stigmatization.
  • Measure the social vulnerability of people living with sickle cell disease to understand the impact of social determinants of health outcomes.
  • Expand CDC surveillance systems to include missing disability status measurements by defining, testing, implementing, and evaluating a new minimum question set to reflect disability status as a demographic in at least one national survey.

NCBDDD aims to create awareness, affect change, and offer solutions within communities to realize a more healthy, equitable, and inclusive society. I am excited and honored to lead NCBDDD activities and endeavors through these historical times, diminish the devastation of COVID-19, and seek to reduce health inequities within our programs. I have always valued how NCBDDD staff rise to meet every challenge and opportunity. I thank them for taking that dedication to new heights this past year as they adapted to the challenges of a global pandemic and delivered uninterrupted service for the populations we served when they needed us the most.


Karen Remley signature

Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP
Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention