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Birth defects: 8 million annually worldwide

Every year an estimated 8 million children -- about 6 percent of total births worldwide -- are born with a serious birth defect of genetic or partially genetic origin, according to a new report from the March of Dimes.

Additionally, hundreds of thousands more are born with serious birth defects of post-conception origin due to maternal exposure to environmental agents, such as alcohol, rubella, and syphilis, says the March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects: The Hidden Toll of Dying and Disabled Children.

The report reveals that at least 3.3 million children less than 5 years of age die annually because of serious birth defects, defined as any serious abnormality of structure or function.

An estimated 3.2 million of those who survive may be mentally and physically disabled for life.

Birth defects are a global problem, but their impact is particularly severe in middle- and low-income countries where more than 94 percent of births with serious defects and 95 percent of the deaths of these children occur, the report finds. Both high prevalence rates and larger numbers of births contribute to the differences between low- and middle-income countries and those with higher incomes.

"Our report identifies for the first time the severe, and previously hidden global toll of birth defects," explains Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "This is a serious, vastly unappreciated and under-funded public health problem."

"The human toll of birth defects is even greater when one considers the impact of lifelong disability on children, their families, and society," says Michael Katz, M.D., senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes.

In addition to poverty and the many health problems that can accompany it, the report notes major demographic reasons for the higher rates of birth defects in poorer countries, including more women of advanced age having children and a gr
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Source:March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation


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