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On this page:
- The MDH Birth Defects Program Annual Report for 2007 is Now Available — May 29, 2008
- Minnesota's Folic Acid Guidelines Endorsed by the MMA — January 2008
- National Children's Study Kick-Off — January 16, 2008
- DVD "Folic Acid" Now Available in Seven Languages — December 2007
- A Growing Debate Over Folic Acid in Flour — December 4, 2007
- Trends in Folic Acid Supplement Intake Among Women of Reproductive Age — October 26, 2007
- Second National Summit on Preconception Health and Health Care — October 29-31, 2007
- The MDH Birth Defects Program Annual Report for 2006 is Now Available — June 29, 2007
- Future Parents' Lifestyle Choices Affect Babies' Risk of Heart Defects — May 22, 2007
- Folic Acid May Prevent Cleft Lip and Palate — January 26, 2007
- Newly Released CDC Report Estimates the Cost of Birth Defects — January 19, 2007
- Hospital Costs for Birth Defects Estimated at $2.5 Billion a Year — January 18, 2007
- Folate Levels Fall in Young U.S. Women — January 9, 2007
- That Prenatal Visit May Be Months Too Late — November 28, 2006
- Folic Acid May Protect Against Birth Defects, But Intake Still Falls Short of Goals — October 2006
- New Website, "Congenital Heart Disease: a Public Health Perspective" — September 2006
- Neural Tube Defects and Folate: Case Far from Closed — September 2006
- Working Together in an Unprecedented Effort to Fight Spina Bifida — July 2006
- MDH's Birth Defects Program, 2005 Annual Report Now Released — June 2006
- Recommendations to Improve Preconception Health and Health Care — April 21, 2006
- MDH Urges Physicians to Recommend Folic Acid — March 24, 2006
- FDA Strengthens Warning For Pregnant Women Using Paxil After Two Studies Link Use To Fetal Heart Defects — December 2005
- CDC Reports on the Use of Dietary Supplements Containing Folic Acid — September 2005
- Decline in the Prevalence of Spina Bifida and Anencephaly by Race/Ethnicity: 1995-2002 — September 2005
- New Website Dedicated to Issues Surrounding the Use of Medications During Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding — May 2005
- MDH Awarded a Five-Year Birth Defects Grant from CDC — March 2005
- U.S. Surgeon General Releases Advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy — February 21, 2005
- Folic Acid May Prevent Hypertension in Addition to Reducing the Risk of Birth Defects — Jan/Feb 2005
- More Babies Born at Very Low Birthweight Linked to Rise in Infant Mortality in 2002 —January 24, 2005
- U.S. Surgeon General Rolls Out 2005 Agenda: The Year of the Healthy Child — January 24, 2005
- New Review of Spina Bifida Recently Published in The Lancet — November 20, 2004
- New Study Finds Use of Calcium and Folic Acid Could Save $15 Billion in Health Care Costs — September 22, 2004
- CRG Launches Public Resource on Genetics and the Law — June 29, 2004
- Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota Team Up With MDH to Screen Newborns for Rare, Hidden Disorders — June 28, 2004
- One-Hour Down Syndrome Tests — May 21, 2004
- Spina Bifida and Anencephaly Before and After Folic Acid Mandate — May 7, 2004
The Minnesota Department of Health Birth Defects program has recently released it's annual report for the 2007 program year. The report provides information about how birth defects data is collected and gives an update on the Birth Defects program activities for 2007. View the 2007 MDH Birth Defects Program Annual Report
The Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) has recently given official support and endorsement for, "Minnesota’s Folic Acid Guidelines for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs)." These guidelines were created as a tool to help physicians provide recommendations for folic acid supplementation. The guidelines provide a list of special considerations that should be taken into account when determining the correct dose of folic acid for each patient. January is the official release of the guidelines by the Minnesota Department of Health. About 5,000 physicians in Minnesota should receive a copy of the guidelines.
There was a kick-off for the National Children's Study on 1/16/08 at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus. The National Children’s Study will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children. This is the largest and most comprehensive study of child and human health ever conducted in the United States.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Birth Defects program partnered with the Emergency & Community Health Outreach (ECHO) program, the Minnesota Chapter of the March of Dimes, and the Minnesota Folic Acid Council to create a DVD that includes seven 20-minute folic acid educational video productions in English, Hmong, Khmer/Cambodian, Lao, Vietnamese, Somali and Spanish. The MDH is offering these DVDs as a resource to organizations who work with non-English speaking populations in Minnesota.
The debate over folic acid is a familiar one that is intensifying. Since 1998, the federal government has required that almost all flour be fortified with the supplement, however, women receive an average extra dose of just 100 micrograms of folic acid a day. This is far below the levels that have been shown in studies to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects. For more information, see the New York Times article, "A Growing Debate Over Folic Acid in Flour".
The California Department of Public Health conducted trend analyses of data from the California Women's Health Survey (CWHS). An MMWR report from the CDC summarizes the results of those analyses, which indicated that although the overall prevalence of intake of folic acid containing supplements remained stable from 2002 (40%) to 2006 (41%) in California, use of such supplements decreased among Hispanic women and women with less education. For more information, see the CDC's article, "Trends in Folic Acid Supplement Intake Among Women of Reproductive Age -- California, 2002-2006".
The Second National Summit on Preconception Health and Health Care will take place in Oakland California October 29-31,2007. This meeting will focus on strategies for implementing the national recommendations to improve women's health, preconception care, and pregnancy outcomes. For more information, see the March of Dimes web page on the "Second National Summit on Preconception Health and Health Care".
The Minnesota Department of Health Birth Defects program has recently released it's annual report for the 2006 program year. The report provides information about how birth defects data is collected and gives an update on the Birth Defects program activities for 2006. View the 2006 MDH Birth Defects Program Annual Report.
The American Heart Association recently released a scientific statement that says prospective parents can take positive lifestyle steps to increase the chance that their babies will be born with a healthy heart.
A new study finds that women who take folic acid supplements early in their pregnancy can substantially reduce their baby’s chances of being born with a facial cleft. For more information, see the National Instititutes of Health article, "Folic Acid May Prevent Cleft Lip and Palate".
View the Full Report, "Folic acid supplements and risk of facial clefts: national population based case-control study" (published on 1/26/07 in the British Medical Journal).
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recently released a report that estimates the cost of birth defects. Thirty-five birth defects were analyzed. The birth defects analyzed were selected from the 45 birth defect categories included in the Congenital Malformations Surveillance Report of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN). (Note: The Minnesota Birth Defects Information System collects data on the 35 birth defect categories listed in the study.) For more information, see the CDC article, "Hospital Stays, Hospital Charges, and In-Hospital Deaths Among Infants with Selected Birth Defects -- United States, 2003".
Birth defects lead to more than $2.5 billion a year in hospital costs alone, according to the first national studies to estimate their financial burden on U.S. families. According to experts, the reports are the most comprehensive to look at the costs of birth defects in at least 10 years.
Blood levels of folate in young women are dropping, a disturbing development that could lead to increased birth defects and may be due to low-carb diets or the popularity of unfortified whole-grain breads. It's not clear how the decline in folate levels has affected newborns, but preliminary data suggest the dramatic declines in neural tube defects seen in the late 1990s may have leveled off by 2004.
March of Dimes Response: March of Dimes Calls on FDA to Double the Folic Acid in Food
For years, women have had it drummed into them that prenatal care is the key to having a healthy baby, and that they should see a doctor as soon as they know they are pregnant. But by then, it may already be too late. Public health officials are now encouraging women to make sure they are in optimal health well in advance of a pregnancy to reduce the risk of preventable birth defects and complications. For more information, see the New York Times article, "That Prenatal Visit May Be Months Too Late".
A national mandate to fortify all U.S. enriched grain products with folic acid has led to an overall intake of the nutrient, yet consumption still falls far short of federal targets and varies greatly among different populations.
Staff of the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland, Baltimore worked with Dr. Charlotte Ferencz, pediatric cardiologist, to develop a new website, "Congenital Heart Disease: a Public Health Perspective." It is hoped that the material provided in the web site will further broaden the horizons on the public health potential which could be realized by the efforts of patients and their families as well as their health care providers. For more information, see the Congenital Heart Disease web site.
Failure of neural tube closure leads to neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, and has been linked to insufficiency of folate. The genetic and molecular mechanisms that link folate metabolism to neural tube defects are now being unravelled. For more information, see the Nature Reviews, Neuroscience article, "Neural tube defects and folate: case far from closed".
The Spina Bifida Association (SBA), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and GRUMA S.A. de C.V, announced their joint effort to help fight Spina Bifida. Through this joint effort, GRUMA, one of the world’s largest producers of corn flour and tortillas, has begun researching and conducting product testing with the goal of enriching its corn products with folic acid in the U.S. by the end of 2006. This initiative has the potential to reduce the incidence of Spina Bifida among all babies by 70 percent by helping increase the intake of this nutrient among women.
MDH has released the 2005 Annual Report. The report gives updates on the data collected by the Birth Defects program as well as other program activities. These reports will be released on an annual basis. View the 2005 MDH Birth Defects Program Annual Report.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released national recommendations encouraging women to take steps toward good health before becoming pregnant. The recommendations on preconception health and health care identify more than a dozen risk factors and conditions that require interventions before pregnancy to be effective. For more information, see the CDC article, "Recommendations to Improve Preconception Health and Health Care -- United States".
An article in the Minnesota Medical Association's electronic newsletter reports that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has stepped up its efforts to raise awareness about folic acid’s ability to prevent birth defects.
FDA Strengthens Warning For Pregnant Women Using Paxil After Two Studies Link Use To Fetal Heart Defects
FDA on Thursday issued a public health advisory warning pregnant women and physicians about an increased risk of fetal heart defects from taking GlaxoSmithKline's antidepressant Paxil -- known generically as paroxetine -- during the first three months of pregnancy, the Washington Post reports (Kaufman/Vedantam, Washington Post, 12/9). The warning moves Paxil to Category D, FDA's second-highest category for risk of birth defects. For more information, see the Medical News Today article, "FDA Strengthens Warning For Pregnant Women Using Paxil After Two Studies Link Use To Fetal Heart Defects".
A new report released by the CDC in September 2005 summarizes results from the 2005 March of Dimes Gallup survey, which determined a decrease in the proportion of childbearing-aged women who reported taking folic acid in dietary supplements daily,* from 40% in 2004 to 33% in 2005, returning to a level consistent with that reported during 1995-2003 (Figure). These results emphasize the need for innovative programs to increase folic acid consumption to further reduce NTDs. For more information, see the CDC article, "Use of Dietary Supplements Containing Folic Acid Among Women of Childbearing Age --- United States, 2005".
A recent study suggests that folic acid fortification is associated with significant decreases in the prevalence of spina bifida and anencephaly among non-Hispanic white and Hispanic births. For more information, see the Pediatrics article, "Decline in the Prevalence of Spina Bifida and Anencephaly by Race/Ethnicity: 1995-2002".
New Website Dedicated to Issues Surrounding the Use of Medications During Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding
The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) has been actively engaged in activities related to medication exposures during pregnancy since the 1970’s. NCBDDD has now posted a new website dedicated to issues surrounding the use of medications during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. For more information, see the CDC article, "Medication Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding".
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Environmental Impacts Analysis Unit was successful in efforts to receive a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). The grant will activate the legislation passed last session that allows for collection of birth defects information and will be used to implement the Birth Defects Information System (BDIS). Minnesota was one of only seven states that were funded in this highly competitive application (29 states applied). Many different programs within MDH will be collaborating on the implementation and operation of the BDIS.
Urges women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant to abstain from alcohol
In a recent news release, the U.S. Surgeon warned pregnant women and women who may become pregnant to abstain from alcohol consumption in order to eliminate the chance of giving birth to a baby with any of the harmful effects of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASD is the full spectrum of birth defects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.
The spectrum may include mild and subtle changes, such as a slight learning disability and/or physical abnormality, through full-blown Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which can include severe learning disabilities, growth deficiencies, abnormal facial features, and central nervous system disorders. This updates a 1981 Surgeon General's Advisory that suggested that pregnant women limit the amount of alcohol they drink.
In a new study, higher total folate intake was associated with a decreased risk of incident hypertension, particularly in younger women. The study was published in the Jan. 19 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (293, 3:320-9, 2005).
An increase in the birth of very small infants is the major reason behind the increase in U.S. infant mortality in 2002, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The increase in infant mortality, from 6.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2001 to 7.0 in 2002, was the first increase in the infant mortality rate since 1958 and was reported last year by CDC. For more information, see the CDC article, "More Babies Born at Very Low Birthweight, Linked to Rise in Infant Mortality in 2002".
U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona marked Folic Acid Awareness week by rolling out his 2005 agenda and reminding all women of childbearing age to consume the recommended amounts of folic acid each day. This includes an increased dosage for women at risk of Neural Tube Defects.
A review of articles over the past decade relating to a specific form of spina bifida called meningomyelocoeles was recently published in The Lancet. Topics include epidemiology, family history, folic acid, maternal diabetes, drugs, other risk factors, genetics, treatment, medical management, and prevention.
The review entitled, "Spina Bifida" was published on November 20, 2004: Volume 364; pages 1885-1895. To access the review without a subscription, you will need to register with The Lancet and then search for the title and/or volume. This is a free and speedy process.
A new study released on September 22, 2004 shows that daily use of folic acid by women would prevent 600 cases of neural tube birth defects yearly, saving $1.3 billion in lifetime medical costs over five years.
The Genetics and the Law Project, an initiative of the Council for Responsible Genetics, has recently released an expansive, searchable online clearinghouse of information on emerging legal developments in human genetics. Through its new website, the project offers six original, in-depth reports and a unique database of court cases and legislation in genetics. This resource will provide critical guidance to patients, lawyers, and healthcare stakeholders in making sense of rapid changes in science and the law.
Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota Team Up With MDH to Screen Newborns for Rare, Hidden Disorders
89 babies born in 2003 were diagnosed with serious disorders
Babies born with rare, hidden metabolic disorders can suffer a lifetime of problems if their conditions go undetected and untreated. Fortunately, babies born in Minnesota benefit from a comprehensive newborn screening program enhanced by a new public-private partnership involving the Minnesota Department of Health, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.
A Philadelphia hospital says it is the first in the nation to offer pregnant women a two-test combination that tells them within an hour after its completion whether their baby has Down syndrome.
Spina Bifida and Anencephaly Before and After Folic Acid Mandate - United States, 1995-1996 and 1999-2000
A diet deficient in folic acid may cause certain neural tube defects. This link summarizes results of research comparing the rate of neural tube birth defects before and after food was fortified with folic acid. Spina bifida and anencephaly , along with elected terminations, significantly decreased after fortification of the food supply with folic acid. For more information, see the CDC article, "Spina Bifida and Anencephaly Before and After Folic Acid Mandate - United States, 1995-1996 and 1999-2000" (PDF: 1.9MB/24 pages -- article starts on page 362).