Technical consultation to reduce risk of neural tube defects

Technical consultation to reduce risk of neural tube defects photo

Front Row (left to right) Lorenzo Botto, Abanti Zakaria, Luz Maria De-Regil, Lynn Bailey, Nancy Pinel, Anne Molloy, Christine Pfeiffer. Back Row (left to right) Aliki P. Weakland, John Hoddinott, Patrick Stover, Homero Martinez, Bob Black, Ken Brown. MIssing: Neena Raina, Greg S. Garrett

OTTAWA, CANADA – The Micronutrient Initiative (MI) recently participated in a technical consultation for the creation of a global roadmap to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) – congenital anomalies of the brain, spine or spinal cord that take place in the first month of pregnancy.

Significant progress has been made in reducing child mortality from infectious diseases, like pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria. As this happens, other causes of mortality proportionally increases. For many countries, birth defects are now becoming a leading cause of infant mortality. Worldwide, more than 300,000 babies are born with neural tube defects each year.

The consultation, which was convened by the Micronutrient Forum, brought together an inter-disciplinary committee of internationally recognised experts in nutrition, birth defect prevention, laboratory analysis, and program implementation. MI was represented by Director and Chief Technical Advisor, Luz Maria De-Regil.

“This technical consultation will eventually lead to a roadmap that not only will help identify investments for programming but assist countries in better implementation and impact measurement,” said Luz Maria. “A portion of NTDs are preventable through simple nutrition actions like weekly iron and folic acid supplementation prior to conception or food fortification with folic acid. The scope of this consultation fits well within MI’s aims of our Right Start Initiative, through which we will reach millions of adolescent girls and women of reproductive age with these interventions in the next five years.”

The main investigative areas for the committee include magnitude of the burden of both folate insufficiency and neural tube defects, intervention options and investment prioritization. Committee members will meet again in April 2017, with the roadmap to be delivered in July 2017.

For more information about the consultation, please visit the Micronutrient Forum.