Our History

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    CDC building

    The Communicable Disease Center (CDC) is established in Atlanta (the precursor of the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). CDC’s goal is to protect the public by quickly identifying diseases brought into the United States by soldiers returning from out of the country.

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    Mother holding her baby's feet
    • CDC expands its reach into chronic disease with investigation of a cancer cluster in Niles, Illinois. Because of the connection between cancer and birth defects, CDC begins to explore birth defects research issues.
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    • After the thalidomide tragedy in Europe, the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP)–the first population-based birth defects surveillance system in the United States―is born.
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    • CDC confirms that the acne medication isotretinoin (Accutane®) is linked with serious birth defects.
    • CDC and the Georgia Department of Human Resources initiate the Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Study (MADDS) to provide population-based prevalence data on developmental disabilities.
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    • A disabilities prevention program is created within the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health.
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    • CDC publishes a report that identifies birth defects as a leading cause of infant mortality. This report also notes that heart defects account for 38% of birth defects-related infant mortality.
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    • CDC launches the Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (MADDSP), an ongoing, population-based prevalence study of four developmental disabilities.
    • CDC issues a recommendation that women who have had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect (NTD) consume 4 milligrams of the B-vitamin folic acid daily, prior to pregnancy, for preventing the recurrence of NTDs.
    • CDC establishes the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Unit in the Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the National Center for Environmental Health.
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    • CDC launches a six-state surveillance project to identify everyone in those states with hemophilia. The project collects important data on care and outcomes for people with hemophilia and provides the first population-based estimates of the burden of this bleeding disorder.
    • CDC appropriates funding to establish at the state-level Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (CBDRP).
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    • CDC begins Early Hearing Detection and Intervention activities as part of a national effort to promote the early detection of hearing loss, tracking of infants and children who have hearing loss, and initiation of effective intervention systems.
    • CDC and the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) publish the first annual Congenital Malformations Surveillance Report. This is the first time population-based birth defects surveillance data from a number of states presented together.
    • CDC partners with three universities to develop and test Project CHOICES (Children Have Opportunities in Inclusive Community Environments and Schools), a motivational intervention aimed at preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancies. Study results show that a brief motivational intervention can reduce the risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. Project CHOICES becomes a model program embraced by researchers and used in other federal initiatives.
    • The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Surveillance Network is created to determine the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome within certain regions of the U.S.
    • A CDC-funded study concludes that screening newborns to identify children with sickle cell disease reduces early childhood mortality from the disease to very low levels.
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    • CDC initiates one of the few programs in the world that conducts active, ongoing monitoring of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children.
    • NCBDDD initiates Legacy for Children™, a set of longitudinal, randomized, controlled studies examining the potential for improving child developmental outcomes through parenting programs designed to promote self-efficacy and a sense of community.
    • CDC begins collaborating with approximately 140 hemophilia treatment centers through the Universal Data Collection (UDC) Program to monitor blood product safety and outcomes of care for people with bleeding disorders.
    • CDC, the March of Dimes, and the NCFA launch the National Folic Acid Campaign to promote the use of folic acid to prevent birth defects.
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    • CDC publishes the first study to show that 400 micrograms of folic acid alone (rather than included with other multivitamins) taken before and during early pregnancy can achieve dramatic reductions in the rates of these serious birth defects of the spine and brain.
    • Congress directs CDC to study hereditary hemochromatosis and other iron-related disorders.
    • The Children’s Health Act of 2000 is passed by Congress and signed into law by President William J. Clinton. It requires the establishment of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at CDC by April 15, 2001. As specified in the act, the new center will include what heretofore were the programs, functions, and staff of the Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, National Center for Environmental Health.