Promoting health through the life-course

World Birth Defects Day

The first-ever World Birth Defects Day was observed in 2015 on 3 March with the support of 12 organizations. Some 15 more global and national organizations have joined in support to prepare for #WBDDAY 2016.

The International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Surveillance and Research (ICBDSR - or Clearinghouse in short) is a voluntary non profit International Organization in official relations with WHO. The Organization brings together birth defect surveillance and research programmes from around the world with the aim of investigating and preventing birth defects and lessening the impact of their consequences. Both PAHO and WPRO offices are support #WBDDAY2016.

This year, World Birth Defects Day has become even more significant as a result of the Zika virus, forcing the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency in response. Health authorities and agencies are investigating the potential connection between microcephaly (a neonatal malformation defined as a head size much smaller compared with other babies of the same age and sex) and Zika virus infection, in addition to other possible causes. However more investigation and research is needed to better understand any possible link.

More than 1 in 10 newborns die from a congenital disorder and, overall, nearly 500,000 under-5 child deaths are due to congenital disorders. Furthermore, the majority of newborns with a serious congenital disorder that survive face a lifetime of severe disability. Congenital disorders are also known to be associated with stillbirth and prematurity. In addition, several hundred thousand babies are born with congenital disorders due to poor care in pregnancy, such as micronutrient deficiencies, infections and exposures to alcohol. The same feasible, cost-effective and evidence-based interventions that can end preventable maternal and newborn mortality, can also end preventable maternal and child morbidity outcomes, including birth defects.

World Health Assembly resolution

The 63rd World Health Assembly passed a resolution in 2010 calling for Member States to:

  • raise awareness of congenital disorders as a cause of child morbidity and mortality;
  • develop and strengthen birth registration and surveillance for birth defects;
  • strengthen evidence on etiology, diagnosis and prevention of major birth defects; and
  • develop national plans for implementation of effective interventions to prevent and manage birth defects.

In 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals and the launch of the United Nation’s Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health were launched. These global goals include important targets for ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths.