Surveillance of neural tube defects in Israel: the effect of the recommendation for periconceptional folic acid.Isr Med Assoc J. 2006 Sep; 8(9):601-4.IM
Open neural tube defects are among the most common severely disabling birth defects. Secondary prevention by early diagnosis during pregnancy and abortion of affected fetuses lead to a marked reduction of NTD incidence at birth. For primary prevention of these defects, in August 2000 the Israel Ministry of Health issued guidelines recommending a daily 0.4 mg folic acid supplement for all women in their childbearing years with special emphasis on the 3 months preceding conception and the first trimester of pregnancy.
To compare the epidemiologic characteristics of NTD in Israel before and after the guidelines for folic acid supplementation.
A national registry of NTD was begun in 1999. Since the Ministry of Health published the recommendation for folic acid supplementation in mid-2000, the years 1999-2000 represent the status prior to the recommendation and the years 2002-2004 the status after.
A marked decline in the rate of spina bifida was observed in the last 3 years (from 4.9 to 2.7 per 10,000 live births among Jews and 9.5 to 6.2 among Arabs and Druze). There was no apparent reduction for anencephaly.
Following the Ministry of Health guidelines on folic acid supplementation for women in the reproductive age, a marked reduction in the rates of NTD was observed. In light of this apparent success, continuous efforts should be made to increase the percentage of women taking the supplementation and, especially, to introduce folic acid fortification.