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Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities
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Children are our most valuable resource.

Herbert Hoover

Preventing developmental disabilities begins long before a woman gets pregnant and continues long after her children are born.  OPDD addresses the many facets of prevention by using the life cycle paradigm.  Examples of good health behaviors in each life stage include:
  • Preconception Health Family planning, up-to-date immunizations, good nutrition and intake of folic acid, stopping the consumption of alcohol, reviewing all prescriptions with doctor; screening for specific genetic disorders
  • Prenatal Health – Early and continuous prenatal care; healthy nutrition, no consumption of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, exercise
  • Infant and Child Health – Newborn screening, immunizations, lead poisoning prevention, back to sleep, car and booster seats, helmets, home smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, early education
OPDD was established by legislation (P.L. 1987, c. 5, as amended by P.L. 2000, c. 82). The mission of OPDD is to reduce the frequency of occurrence of severe chronic mental or physical disabilities that originate during pregnancy or early childhood. This goal is pursued by many means, including:
  • Educating the public about the preventable causes of disabilities, such as ingesting leaded paint or maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  • Alerting health care providers and others to new discoveries that suggest ways to reduce the risks of permanent damage to children before, during, or after birth. For example, a) improved obstetric practice is credited with reducing the number of children who are disabled by cerebral palsy; or b) taking folic acid (Vitamin B) prior to and during pregnancy holds much promise in preventing neural tube defects.
  • Publicizing newly discovered causes of disability that arise from societal or environmental changes. For example, severe disability has been found in infants whose mothers are heroin users or who are infected with HIV.  These disabilities may be moderated or less severe if such mothers take the drug, AZT, during pregnancy.
  • Fostering coordination among different agencies, each of which may be part of the solution to a problem.
  • Stimulating research to push forward the frontiers of biomedical knowledge.
  • Advocating for changes in social conditions that endanger children.
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