Serving the Public: Overview


pic_spd_overview-7849426The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program provides rigorous scientific data to answer questions about birth defects… including the ultimate question: what causes them?


We’ve made a commitment to provide data and findings to those who need them—other scientists, health care professionals and the public.

bullet-6325582 Public health impact of birth defects. Policymakers, health officials and clinical service planners can use this data to predict services needed, allocate resources, identify high risk populations and target public health interventions. Because birth defects are an often overlooked problem, documenting occurrence can help the public appreciate the tremendous financial and emotional impact involved.
bullet-6325582 Identifying risk and protective factors. By comparing interview responses between mothers of children with and without birth defects, scientists can determine factors that may contribute to—or protect against—abnormal development. Most risk factors cause relatively subtle statistical differences and can be detected only in large-scale studies like ours.
bullet-6325582 Rapid response to public concerns. If an alert clinician or concerned community observes a sharp rise in local birth defects, the Program can mobilize resources to quickly assess and address concerns about possible environmental causes. However, the small numbers in most communities mean this type of investigation can detect only very powerful agents (those causing jumps at least 10 times higher than the expected rate).



Here are a few practical examples of how Program data is used:

bullet-6325582 A county infant mortality review panel observes anencephaly (absence of the brain) occurring frequently among perinatal deaths—6 cases in the previous year. Is this too many? Noting an increase in illicit drug use, local physicians wonder if there’s a link. The county has 25,000 births a year. Learning the statewide anencephaly rate is 0.2 per 1000 livebirths, they determine their actual case count—6 infants—is not statistically different from the 5 cases expected.
bullet-6325582 Recognizing that neural tube defects are higher in Latino infants, local March of Dimes Foundation chapters develop Spanish-language educational materials as part of their campaign to promote folic acid use during pregnancy.
bullet-6325582 A children’s hospital contemplates adding a craniofacial clinic, but wonder how many clients will need treatment. Their service area has 20,000 births per year. Based on a rate of 1.6 per 1000, they expect 32 infants will be born with oral clefts each year.