A new initiative to improve global prevention and care for birth defects, Born Healthy, has been launched by the PHG Foundation.
Birth defects (congenital disorders) affect more than eight million babies each year, primarily in low and middle-income countries. As childhood deaths from infectious diseases fall, the burden of birth defects becomes more apparent, causing more than 3 million deaths annually. Children that survive typically face a lifetime of serious disability, associated with increased poverty and often social stigma too. However, up to 70% of birth defects could be either prevented entirely, or recognised and treated promptly to minimise their effects. Relatively simple and affordable interventions such as improved maternal nutrition and vaccination can have a substantial impact.
Recognising this, the PHG Foundation has produced a new health needs assessment toolkit to allow health professionals in lower income countries to evaluate birth defects in their own countries or regions, and plan appropriate services to tackle them according to available resources. A three day international expert meeting at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London from 27-29 June 2011 brought together experts in birth defects to review trials of the toolkit in South America and make recommendations for further development and distribution.
The meeting also saw the launch of Born Healthy, the new global community for all those who want to see governments around the world acting now to tackle birth defects and give their children the healthiest possible start in life. Organisations and individuals can join to show their support and shape the services offered by the community, as well as accessing the toolkit, which will be freely available to all health professionals and planners.