Nutrition

Training workshop on surveillance and prevention of birth defects and preterm births

15-19 October 2012, WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland

In collaboration with the International Clearinghouse of Birth Defects Surveillance and Research (ICBDSR) and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Scope and Purpose

Birth defects and preterm birth are or will be leading causes of childhood death, chronic illness, and disability in many countries, including developing countries. In an effort to address the emerging importance of birth defects, on 21 May 2010 the 63rd World Health Assembly adopted a resolution calling all Member States to promote primary prevention and the health of children with birth defects by developing and strengthening registration and surveillance systems; developing expertise and building capacity; strengthening research and studies on aetiology, diagnosis and prevention; and promoting international cooperation.

An effective surveillance programme requires that capacity in the countries be built in order to strengthen registration and surveillance systems for birth defects within the framework of national health information systems and requires the use of accurate information for decision-making on the prevention and control of birth defects and their determinants through effectively implemented actions.

It has been recognized that there are a diversity of causes and determinants of congenital disorders, including preventable factors such as infections or nutritional factors, vaccine-preventable diseases, consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and exposure to pesticides. Nutritional factors such as iodine and folate inadequacies have been associated with birth defects and interventions aiming to improve the intake of these micronutrients are recommended.

Folic acid supplementation, food fortification of staple foods such as wheat and maize flours with folic acid, salt iodization or iodine supplementation in areas where salt iodization programmes are not yet fully implemented are examples of recommended interventions.

The WHO Departments of Reproductive Health and Research and Nutrition for Health and Development in collaboration with the International Clearinghouse of Birth Defects Surveillance and Research and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are convening a training workshop on Surveillance and Prevention of Birth Defects and Preterm Births in Geneva, Switzerland from 15 to 19 October 2012. This training workshop will include focused lectures and practical small group sessions.

The topics to be covered in this training workshop include:

  • An overview of the epidemiology and prevention of birth defects, preterm births, intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), stillbirth, and other adverse pregnancy outcomes including lifestyle, nutrition, vitamins, maternal conditions and medications.
  • Practical information and small groups discussion on:
    • how to develop a surveillance programme with a focus on neural tube defects in low-to-middle income countries, classification and coding, evaluation of clusters and data presentation;
    • how to implement a preconception programme to prevent birth defects and other adverse pregnancy outcomes; and
    • how to establish a worldwide collaboration.

The main objectives of this training workshop are that participants:

  • Understand the principles and practice of surveillance of birth defects, premature births and other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including ongoing monitoring and cluster investigation.
  • Understand disease risk, health impact, and prevention strategies for common modifiable risk factors such as diabetes, nutrition, medications, and environmental factors in different parts of the world.
  • Develop a prototype monitoring system and prevention program for folate-preventable neural tube defects that can serve as a model for activities in their home countries.

Participants will be encouraged to bring data and issues of particular interest to their countries. Further opportunities for interaction will be provided after the course, as participants return to their countries to implement and expand local activities of surveillance and prevention.

  • Training Program
    Surveillance and Prevention of Birth Defects and Preterm Birth
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