Delegates at the sixty-third World Health Assembly, a major international meeting between senior World Health Organization (WHO) officials and national Health Ministers held in Geneva last week, voted to adopt a range of resolutions relating to public health around the world. These included a resolution to address the problem of birth defects, especially in low- and middle-income countries, calling on Member States ‘to prevent birth defects wherever possible, to implement screening programmes, and to provide ongoing support and care to children with birth defects and their families’ (see press release).
The PHG Foundation is already engaged in a major project to tackle birth defects, also known as congenital anomalies or abnormalities – a wide range of conditions that are present from birth, ranging from genetic and chromosomal disorders through to physical malformations. The majority of birth defects are caused by genetic factors, though environmental factors can also cause or exacerbate them. The PHG Foundation has developed a special toolkit to help low and middle-income countries (where birth defects account for a significant proportion of child deaths and ongoing disability) assess their health needs and develop simple, effective services to prevent and care for this range of conditions. The toolkit is tpo be piloted in different international locations over the coming two years. The PHG Foundation is also working with external partners including the WHO on efforts to create and drive forward concerted global efforts to share expertise and resources in order to reduce the suffering associated with birth defects.