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National Birth Defects Prevention Month Reinforces the Need to Improve Infant Mortality

Contact: Angela Minicuci (517) 241-2112

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 27, 2012

LANSING - As January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) to increase awareness of birth defects and help healthcare professionals and Michigan families take positive steps to reduce their risks.

"Michigan continues to struggle with our infant mortality rate, and birth defects are a top concern when it comes to working towards improvement," said Olga Dazzo, Director of the MDCH. "By addressing the risks and offering support to families affected by birth defects, we can improve the infant mortality rate in Michigan and ultimately, improve our future."

Congenital heart defects are one of the most common types of birth defects, affecting one out of every 100 babies. However, healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions before and during pregnancy may decrease risks. MDCH also offers support to families who are dealing with the realities of a child born with one of these conditions.

Congenital heart defects are abnormalities of the heart that are present at birth. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby's health and some have very serious or life-long effects, such as early death. Nearly 40,000 cases are reported annually in the U.S., with about 1,000 cases occurring in Michigan. Public awareness, accurate diagnosis, and expert medical care are all essential for adequate prevention and management of these all too common and deadly conditions.

"The heart forms in the early weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman realizes she is pregnant. Diet, life-style choices, factors in the environment, health conditions and medications all can play a role in preventing or causing congenital heart defects," said Joan Ehrhardt, Birth Defects Program Coordinator at MDCH. "Small steps like visiting a healthcare provider before pregnancy and taking a multivitamin every day can go a long way."

MDCH, in partnership with the NBDPN, is working with healthcare professionals and public health agencies to encourage prevention and awareness of congenital heart defects among the more than 1.75 million women of childbearing age in Michigan and across the nation.

"Through our combined efforts across the country, and specifically in Michigan, we can reach millions of women and their families with vital information to decrease their risks and improve the future for our children," Dazzo said.

To learn more about birth defects, visit www.migeneticsconnection.org or contact BDRFollowup@michigan.gov.

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