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california birth defects monitoring program

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Data and Surveillance

An Overview

The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program (CBDMP) Registry actively reviews medical records to identify and describe major structural and chromosomal defects in a subset of California's population.  Information on birth defects is collected for the first year of life from multiple sources including hospitals, laboratories and genetic centers.  CBDMP reports current rates and occurrence patterns concerning factors such as race, ethnicity, geographic region, type of defect, mother's age, single and multiple births.  For more information about the CBDMP registry datasets please contact CBDMP.

The Importance of Reporting Clusters

A cluster is defined as being more than the expected number of cases of a birth defect in a population group for a defined geographic area and for a specific period.  There are scientific and public health reasons for investigating suspected clusters.  First, cluster investigations can generate new clues about causes of birth defects.  Because most birth defects cannot be explained, generating ideas about possible causes is essential.  Also, cluster investigations can allay community concerns.  When an investigation shows no increased risk, the public is reassured.  Other times, the investigation may not find a cause, but it may rule out environmental concerns, such as tainted wells, factory emissions and hazardous waste sites.

Cluster Reports

One goal of CBDMP is to respond efficiently and effectively to reported birth defect health outcomes. Concerned parents, news reporters and public officials understand their environments better than anyone else.  Community members have helped in cluster investigations by soliciting the cooperation of other parents, researching exposures and providing historical knowledge about relevant local events. A health professional may be the first to notice a possible cluster due to interactions with patients. When profiling local health data or monitoring environmental conditions, the health department may look at birth defects as one indicator of public health.  Everyone can play an instrumental role in linking birth defects with causal exposures.

Helping to Discover Causes

A goal of the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program (CBDMP) is to provide data to researchers.  In doing so, we hope to reduce the incidence of birth defects and help identify causal factors. In the past, CBDMP has conducted research to test promising hypotheses.  During that time we were able to investigate particular birth defects or environmental exposures.  We also collaborated with scientists around the world to conduct comprehensive studies and share ideas and findings.

Currently, CBDMP tracks rates and trends with our Registry, a database of medical and demographic information on children with birth defects.  We also respond to public concerns by investigating birth defect clusters or targeting surveillance around sites of environmental concern. 

For more information about clusters or to report a cluster, please contact CBDMP.

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