The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program (CBDMP) is a public health program devoted to finding causes of birth defects. To this end the Program:

  • Maintains a birth defects registry of babies born with a medically-significant, structural birth defect
  • Conducts large interview studies to gather information about factors which may be associated with birth defects
  • Monitors rates and trends
  • Responds to community concerns about birth defects and the environment.

In 1982 the Legislature and Governor established the Program. Since that time, CBDMP has become one of the most successful birth defects research programs in the world and is widely regarded as a model for other states. In 1997 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated the Program as a Center for Excellence in Birth Defects Research.

Generating Quality Data for Research Studies

The Program routinely collects data in 11 counties that produce 270,000 births–more than half the state’s births each year. Registry data reflects California’s geographical, environmental, and racial/ethnic diversity. Because of its size and diversity, the registry has the nation’s largest data sets on Hispanics, Asian subgroups, and specific birth defects.

Registry data:

  • Allows the Program to identify mothers for case-control interview studies
  • Provides clues for investigation among high risk groups
  • Enables ongoing surveillance
  • Answers the public’s questions about whether birth defects rates are unusual in their community.

Because California collects birth defects data among a large and diverse birth population, registry statistics are widely used by researchers and health professionals throughout the world. Extensive procedures ensure all information that might identify children or their families is kept confidential.

Investigating the Causes of Birth Defects

A scientific team of epidemiologists, geneticists and pediatricians generate and test ideas about birth defects causes. Several investigative methods are used:

  • Large interview studies explore a wide variety of factors which may be contributing to birth defects, including diet and nutrition, health and family history, occupation, lifestyle, and hobbies.
  • Biologic sampling (drawing blood, collecting cells from the inside of the cheek) augments interview data by identifying genes, infectious and toxic agents, and measuring nutrients present in the parents and baby.
  • Descriptive studies analyze registry data to identify risk groups and generate clues for investigation in interview studies.
  • Method studies develop new statistical and investigative approaches in order to advance the science of birth defects epidemiology–the study of how different factors interrelate to cause birth defects in humans.

Research findings are published in medical and scientific journals.

Communicating Important Information to the Public

Part of the Program’s mission is to use registry and research findings to advance public health. To this end CBDMP:

  • Actively disseminates information about birth defects and published study findings through a variety of educational materials, the news media, presentations, and exhibits.
  • Periodically publishes registry data to assist health professionals in planning and evaluating services, targeting prevention efforts, documenting birth defects enormous impact, and answering client / patient questions.
  • Investigates community concerns about birth defects and the environment. Protocols guide the investigative steps and enable the Program to evaluate whether birth defects rates are unusual.