CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Nov. 23, 1999
Commission study gives Iowa Birth Defects Registry
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Birth Defects Registry,
located at the University of Iowa, is one of only eight state registries to
receive an "A" for its surveillance and analytic programs in a study released
by the Pew Environmental Commission at the Johns Hopkins University School
of Public Health.
The commission's researchers evaluated each state's
monitoring effort and graded each on its quality. One-third of the states
received an "F" grade because they do not currently track birth defects at
all. Only eight states were awarded an "A" for having birth defects surveillance
systems that will provide useful information for future research.
"Today, only 20 percent of birth defects have known
causes," says Paul Romitti, Ph.D., associate in the UI College of Public Health
and director of the Iowa Birth Defects Registry. "Without continued research
and surveillance at both the state and national levels, public health researchers
are working in the dark."
The Iowa Birth Defects Registry is a statewide reporting
system that works with all Iowa hospitals and specialty clinics to collect
information about birth defects diagnosed among state residents. The information
is used to study potential causes of birth defects and to assess trends in
their occurrence and mortality within the state.
The Pew Commission study reported that while federal
and state investments in birth defects monitoring over the past two decades
have produced some excellent surveillance systems, much more needs to be done.
"What we need is full funding of the Birth Defects
Prevention Act of 1998," said Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D., president of the March
of Dimes and a member of the commission. "This legislation called for more
surveillance, research, education and services to prevent birth defects and
protect children, but without full funding the job just won't get done."
Romitti agreed, stating, "while our surveillance system
has been ranked among the best, we currently lack funding for prevention and
education efforts. Helping to decrease the incidence of birth defects through
research and education should be a fundamental part of our activities here
at the registry."
Currently, the Iowa Birth Defects Registry receives
less than 10 percent of its annual operating budget from the state. The remaining
money comes from the federal government.