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Birth Defects

Tracking Birth Defects

Data on birth defects on the Tracking Network comes from state surveillance systems. Most states collect some birth defects data. However, not all state surveillance systems collect data in the same way, and the types of birth defects monitored may differ from state to state. This is why you should not compare information from one state to another.

The Tracking Network has data for several of the most common birth defects from some of the Tracking Program grantees. Some states may have more years of data available than others. Read More about these Birth Defect Indicators.

Using Birth Defects Tracking Data

Tracking data can be used to make comparisons within a state; birth defect data from different states should not be compared. The comparisons that can be made within a state include:

  • frequency of birth defects by area such as county,
  • frequency of birth defects over time,
  • frequency of birth defects by race or ethnicity, and
  • changes in these measures over time.

Importance of Tracking Birth Defects

Approximately 60% of birth defects are of unknown etiology. The environment remains a source of great public concern, but few environmental exposures have been well-studied. Most birth defects will likely be explained by a complex interaction between genetics and environmental factors. However, before to the ability to conduct studies to explore these interactions is achieved, linking birth defects outcome data with environmental hazard or exposure data is critical. The first step in effecting successful linkages of these data is the existence of high quality birth defects prevalence data for which the geospatial and temporal patterns and distributions can be monitored. Tracking brings together birth prevalence data from its state partners to begin analyses of these patterns, which will provide important clues to public health officials and researchers.

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