DHEC Promotes Healthy Habits, Available Services During National Birth Defect Awareness Month
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 3, 2023
COLUMBIA, S.C. — January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is asking residents to use the next few weeks to support this year’s theme: “Healthy Communities, Healthy Babies.” Birth defects are physical abnormalities that are already present when a baby is born. They can affect any part of the body, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
“Through partnerships and collaborations, DHEC works to realize the SC Birth Defects Program’s vision of a South Carolina where healthy births are promoted, every child with a birth defect gets the necessary attention, and families impacted by birth defects are supported,” said Vinita Leedom, SC Birth Defects Program Director. “We continue to look for innovative ways to make a difference.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), birth defects are the leading cause of infant death, and about 3% of babies in the U.S. are born with a birth defect. Individuals born with a birth defect often face lifelong challenges, but fortunately, improvements in early detection and interventions, medical care and treatment have greatly enhanced the quality of life and extended the life span of these individuals.
While some birth defects are caused by genetics or an unknown cause, many may be prevented by adopting healthy behaviors before and during pregnancy. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network lists several tips for preventing birth defects, including taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, reducing the risk of infections by being up to date on vaccines, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs during pregnancy. In addition, starting prenatal care as early as possible can help identify birth defects (some of which can even be corrected in the womb) and ensure better maternal and child health.
In South Carolina, DHEC is actively supporting the 2023 national theme through surveillance of birth defects, referrals of infants with birth defects to treatment and care, promotion of preconception care and early access to prenatal care, and the agency’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) program, which provides services to qualifying residents ages 21 and under. These services include information and referral, care coordination, and financial assistance with payment for medical services, supplies and equipment.