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Open Access National Neural Tube Defects Prevention Program in China

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Neural tube defects (NTD) are among the most common and devastating birth defects. Annually, in China, between 80,000 and 100,000 pregnancies result in children born with NTD. Northern China has the highest known rate of NTD in the world. Birth defects are becoming the leading cause of infant mortality in the urban and developed areas in China. The results of studies conducted in the early 1990s and early 2000s showed significant geographic and seasonal variations of folate status among Chinese women of childbearing age, with lower serum and red blood cell folate levels in northern China. In the north, 32% to 35% of women had low plasma folate and low red blood cell folate, and folate levels were significantly lower in spring than in fall. Since 1993, Peking University Health Science Center (formerly Beijing Medical University), collaborating with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has conducted a large-scale study to evaluate a public health campaign in China among women preparing for marriage in order to determine the effectiveness of daily supplementation of 400 g of folic acid alone in preventing NTD in both the north and the south of China. The results showed that among the fetuses or infants of the women who took periconceptional folic acid, the reduction in risk of NTD was 85% in the northern region and 40% in the southern region. Daily intake of 400 g of folic acid may also reduce the risk of nonsyndromic orofacial clefts. We found no evidence that daily consumption of folic acid before and during early pregnancy influenced the risk of miscarriage or twinning. In 2001, the Chinese Ministry of Health and the Chinese Disabled Person Federation released a National Action Plan for Reducing Birth Defects and Disabilities in China for 2002–2010. The Action Plan aims to improve birth outcomes, to reduce infant mortality by reducing the risk of birth defects and disabilities, and to ensure that every baby is born healthy.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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