The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Sri Lanka Ministry of Health to conduct a National Consultation on Birth Defects Prevention and Control in Colombo on 17-19 April.
The workshop included presentations from CDC experts, providing a platform for health practitioners to discuss a strategic framework to monitor and prevent birth defects in Sri Lanka.
The workshop also highlighted the US Government’s goal to help international partners control birth defects by establishing country-level strategic health plans. Sri Lanka is one such country building a national plan to prevent non-communicable diseases.
In keeping with the Health Ministry’s declaration of 2013 as the Year of Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases, the workshop highlighted the urgent and increasing public health and economic impact of non-communicable diseases in Sri Lanka. Non-communicable diseases, including the major killers – cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes – have surpassed infectious disease as the primary cause of death worldwide.
In 2012, the US Government funded WHO through a cooperative agreement including $362,000 to the South-East Asia Regional Office of the WHO (WHO-SEARO) to support governments in the region develop robust measures for birth defects control and prevention. WHO-SEARO also supports programs that prevent, diagnose, and treat NCDs by developing associated health promotion activities, strengthening health care systems and building national capacity in surveillance and research to address their growing NCD challenges.
Countries are making progress in reducing the number of deaths among children under five that are caused by infectious diseases. As a result, the proportion of deaths among young children associated with birth defects is increasing.
In addition to supporting the efforts of WHO and various Ministries of Health like that of the Sri Lankan Government, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention supports programs that prevent and identify neural tube defects and other birth defects, develop associated health promotion materials and activities, and establish public-private partnerships that carry out activities to help prevent neural tube defects.