Surveillance for and comparison of birth defect prevalences in two geographic areas--United States, 1983-88

MMWR CDC Surveill Summ. 1993 Mar 19;42(1):1-7.


Problem/condition: CDC and a number of states have developed surveillance systems to monitor the birth prevalence of major defects.

Reporting period covered: This report covers birth defects surveillance in Metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia and selected jurisdictions in California for the years 1983-1988.

Description of system: The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program and the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program are two population based surveillance systems that employ similar data collection methods. The prevalence estimates for 44 diagnostic categories are based on data from 1983 to 1988 for 639,837 births in California and 152,970 births in metropolitan Atlanta. The prevalences in the two areas are compared adjusting for race, sex and maternal age using Poisson regression.

Results: Regional differences in the prevalence of aortic stenosis, fetal alcohol syndrome, hip dislocation/dysplasia, microcephalus, obstruction of the kidney/ureter, and scoliosis/lordosis may be attributable to general diagnostic variability. However, differences in the prevalences of arm/hand limb reduction, encephalocele, spina bifida, or trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) are probably not attributable to differences in ascertainment because these defects are relatively easy to diagnose.

Interpretation: Regional differences in prenatal diagnosis and pregnancy termination may affect prevalences of trisomy 21 and spina bifida. However, the reason for differences in arm/hand limb reduction is unknown, but may be related to variability in environmental exposure, heterogeneity in gene pool, or random variation.

Actions taken: Because of the similarities of these data bases, several collaborative studies are being implemented. In particular, the differences in the birth prevalence of spina bifida and Down Syndrome will focus attention on the impact of prenatal diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • California / epidemiology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Registries*