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Healthy lifestyle choices help prevent birth defects

During National Birth Defects Prevention Month in January, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is joining with the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) to raise awareness of birth defects, which are a leading cause of infant mortality and chronic illness. Raising awareness about birth defects is closely in line with Governor Snyder’s call to reduce infant mortality rates in order to improve the health status of Michigan as a whole.

A baby is born with a birth defect in the United States every four and a half minutes. Healthy lifestyle choices as well as medical care before and during pregnancy can reduce these chances, resulting in better infant health outcomes for all Michiganders.

“Most people simply do not realize how common, costly and critical birth defects are in Michigan, as well as nationally, or that there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects,” said James K. Haveman, Director of the MDCH. “Through awareness efforts across the country we can reach millions of women and their families with vital prevention information.”

More than 120,000 babies born with a birth defect (approximately 1 in every 33 live births) are reported each year in the United States with around 7,000 cases occurring in Michigan. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health while others have life-threatening or life-long effects. Birth defects are the most common cause of death in infants and the second most common cause of death in children aged one to four years.

Throughout National Birth Defects Prevention Month, MDCH will work to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, educators, social service professionals, and many segments of the general public about the frequency with which birth defects occur and the steps that can be taken to prevent them. Small steps such as visiting a healthcare provider before pregnancy and taking a multivitamin every day can make a significant difference towards protecting the health of women and babies. Public awareness, appropriate medical care, accurate and early diagnosis, and social support systems are all essential for ensuring prevention and treatment of these common and often deadly conditions.

In addition to its prevention efforts, the NBDPN works to improve nationwide surveillance of birth defects, provide family support, and to advance research on possible causes. Information about the NBDPN can be found at www.NBDPN.org and www.EndBirthDefects.org. For more information about birth defects in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/birthdefectsinfo or www.migrc.org.

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