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Birth defects: 8 million annually worldwide

s. "Building such services would allow nations to reduce the toll of death and disability from birth defects and to capitalize on the genetics revolution and rapid advances in molecular biology as they continue to unfold," Dr. Howson says.

Step-By-Step Approach

The report recommends first steps for low-income countries with high rates of infant mortality that are consistent with the established maternal and child health programs.

These include:

  • Educate the community, health professionals and workers, policy makers, the media and other stakeholders about the toll taken by birth defects and opportunities for effective prevention, treatment and care.
  • Ensure a healthy, balanced diet during a woman's reproductive years.
  • Control infections in pregnant women.
  • Train physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and workers in the recognition and care of children with birth defects.
  • Establish national capacity for birth defects surveillance and monitoring.

Some middle-income countries have infant mortality rates that approximate those of the United States in the early 1960s, when it began its systematic effort to strengthen medical genetics services for the care of affected children and prevention of birth defects. For these countries, the next steps recommended include:

  • Train health care professionals in medical genetics;
  • Identify couples at higher risk of having children with genetic disorders;
  • Establish newborn screening programs to identify babies born with devastating but treatable metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria (PKU);
  • Educate women and men of childbearing age about how they can work with health professionals to maximize the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Improvement Is Possible, March of Dimes Says

Although poorer nations may lack resources for these recommended prog

Source:March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation

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