CONTACT: DEBRA VENZKE
UI COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Release: Feb. 20, 2002
National report grants Iowa Birth Defects Registry top grade
Iowa Birth Defects Registry, located within the University of Iowa College
of Public Health, is one of eight state registries to receive an "A"
grade from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a Washington, D.C.-based
advocacy group. The Iowa registry received the high mark for its efforts to
monitor, research and uncover possible causes of birth defects.
TFAH examined birth defects registries in all 50 states, plus the District
of Columbia and Puerto Rico, giving each a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F.
Final grades were based on a number of criteria, including ability to carry
out birth defects tracking, data use, prevention and research capacity, data
sharing capacity, and resources devoted to the task.
Only eight state registries received an A. Fourteen programs earned a B,
and 10 received a C. Nine states have no program at all, or a program so marginal
that it received an F. Another 11 received a D, indicating that they are only
beginning to develop programs.
"We are pleased to receive an A grade and have our program recognized
nationally," said Paul Romitti, Ph.D., director of the Iowa Birth Defects
Registry. "We are committed to expanding our ability to monitor birth
defects, conduct research studies and provide prevention education programs
for Iowans to help reduce the occurrence of birth defects here in the state."
Each year, approximately 1,600 pregnancies in Iowa and 150,000 nationwide
are diagnosed with birth defects. Iowa's registry currently is conducting
a number of studies assessing risks of birth defects such as cleft lip and
cleft palate from drinking water contaminants. Additionally, Iowa is one of
only a few states selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) to establish a Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention to study
causes of birth defects
Birth defects remain the leading cause of infant mortality in the United
States, accounting for about 20 percent of all infant deaths each year. TFAHs
report "Birth Defects Tracking and Prevention: Too Many States
Are Not Making the Grade" calls for states to improve their registries
or create them where they do not exist.
"Our report shows we lack the most basic tool for preventing birth
defects information," said Shelley Hearne, Dr.P.H., executive
director of TFAH. "Without knowing the causes of birth defects, we are
helpless to prevent them."
The report notes that exposure to environmental hazards may play a role
in some birth defects, yet two-thirds of states with registries do not explore
any possible links between birth defects and environmental exposures.
"In order for the Iowa registry to continue to monitor birth defects
and study environmental exposures, we will need increased and continued support
from the state," said Romitti. The state currently provides funds to
cover about 10 percent of the registry's annual operating costs.
The TFAH report builds on the 1999 Pew Environmental Health Commission's
report, "Healthy from the Start: Why America Needs a Better System to
Track and Understand Birth Defects and the Environment." TFAH has expanded
the grading system used by the Pew Commission and also established a set of
minimum program standards. TFAH will be issuing a report examining birth defects
monitoring programs every two years to chart progress in this area, highlight
gaps and identify recommendations for improvement.
The full text of the report is available on the TFAH web site at www.healthyamericans.org.
The Trust for America's Health is a national non-profit organization whose
mission is to protect the health and safety of all communities, especially
those most at risk of environmental and other public health threats. Its goal
is to strengthen the nation's public health system through science-based research,
community partnerships, education and advocacy.