Racial, Ethnic Disparities Persist in Spina Bifida Births

Washington Post, January 9, 2009

Public health efforts to decrease the number of babies born with spina bifida should target women at higher risk, including those who are obese, of Hispanic ethnicity, or who carry certain genetic risk factors, according to a new review by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Spina bifida, a developmental birth defect of the neural tube, called an NTD-affected pregnancy, results in an infant’s having an incompletely formed spinal cord. {snip}

The new data showed no additional decrease in spina bifida among infants born to non-Hispanic white and Hispanic mothers since mandatory folic acid fortification was implemented, but a 20 percent decrease was registered among infants born to non-Hispanic black mothers, according to the CDC review, which looked at statistics from 1999 to 2005. The findings were published in the Jan. 9 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Future public health efforts to reduce the prevalence of spina bifida should focus on subgroups of women with known risk factors for an NTD-affected pregnancy, such as obesity, Hispanic ethnicity, and certain genetic factors. Additional study of genetic and environmental risk and protective factors is warranted,” the CDC review said. {snip}

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[Editor’s Note: The CDC’s report “Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Birth Prevalence of Spina Bifida—United States, 1995–2005” can be read on-line here.]

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