View this page in Ukrainian IBIS: International Birth Defects Information Systems - Home Page
"International Visiting Team Report"
Dr. J. Howse, President
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation

The major impetus for this visit was to establish international links with Ukrainian professionals and gather information about the health status of Ukrainian children, the effects of radiation from the Chornobyl nuclear accident, and the impact of birth defects in Ukraine. The delegation had three primary objectives:

Following an official invitation by the Minister of Health of Ukraine, Dr. A.M. Serdiuk, preparatory arrangements were coordinated by myself on behalf of the visitors and Drs. I. Baryliak and V. Zamostian on behalf of the Genetics Services Program for Ukraine and the Kiev Mohyla University. The visit took place in Kiev during March 13-16, 1998.

The visitors were:
Dr. M.Katz, Mr. Y. Poortman, Dr. J. Harris, Dr. J. Howse
From left to right,
Dr. M.Katz, Mr. Y. Poortman,
Dr. J. Harris, Dr. J. Howse
Dr. Larry Edmonds, State Services, Division of Birth Defects Surveillance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. John Harris, Director, California Birth Defects Monitoring System.
Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes.
Dr. Michael Katz, Vice President for Research, March of Dimes and President of the World Alliance for the Prevention of Birth Defects.
Mr. Ysbrand Poortmann, European Alliance of Genetic Support Groups.
Dr. Wladimir Wertelecki, Chair of Medical Genetics, University of South Alabama.
The visitors were welcomed by Drs. Baryliak and Zamostian and introduced to Ukrainian participants. The Ukrainian experts included
Drs. V. Zamostian, I. Baryliak, L. Edmonds, W. Wertelecki and J. Howse
From left to right,
Drs. V. Zamostian, I. Baryliak,
L. Edmonds, W. Wertelecki and J. Howse
representatives from genetic centers, scientific institutes, the Ministry of Health, regional health administrations (Rivne and Volyn), professional societies (pediatrics, neonatology, obstetrics, perinatology) and advocacy groups, among others. In addition, the visitors met with students and faculty of the Mohyla University after a welcome by its President, Dr. Vyacheslav Brioukhovetsky. Some of the visitors were given a special briefing by representative Wladimir M. Yatsenko, head of the Chornobyl Commission of the Parliament.

After three days of presentations and discussions held at the Ministry of Health and the Mohyla Academy, several opinions emerged and propositions adopted:

Chornobyl is writ large in the psyche of Ukrainians. The people project their fears and their economic, social and medical problems on the nuclear accident and its aftermath. We also learned from Mr. Yatsenko, a member of Parliament, that presently 10% of the Ukrainian national budget is devoted to Chornobyl-related activities, such as contamination clean-up, reactor start-up, citizen relocation and medical treatment issues. There has been a 30% decline in the birth rate over the last several years, and many of the assembled Ukrainian representatives attributed this decline to Chornobyl.

Birth Defects Surveillance - There is great interest in this subject. Presently some very basic data is maintained by the Ministry of Health, but the Ukrainian physicians and scientists emphasized the importance of building an improved system and upgrading the quality of data. Currently there is a proposal pending to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for pilot surveillance programs to be established in the regions of Rivne and Volyn, the areas most impacted by Chornobyl.

The Volyn and Rivne regions in Ukraine are among the areas where new on-going monitoring systems for birth defects are highly desirable.

Birth Defects Prevention - This area is of significant interest to the Ministry of Health, especially to Dr. R. Bohatyrova, the Deputy Minister for Maternal and Child Health, to Dr. Barilyak, and the regional physicians and geneticists. Various programs were discussed, including the need for folic acid and reduction of tobacco and alcohol usage.

Financial support is critically necessary to propel birth defects surveillance and prevention. Several visitors offered to participate in the development of funding proposals.

A Ukrainian Alliance for Birth Defects Prevention will be registered to gain legal status. The Coordinator will be Dr. I. Baryliak and Dr. W. Wertelecki will serve as its International Liaison.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide ongoing technical assistance in the design and operation of Ukrainian birth defects surveillance systems.

The European Alliance for Birth Defects Prevention will provide planning assistance and critique the proposed plan of the Ukrainian Alliance.

The March of Dimes will send a research expert to Kiev to provide technical assistance for writing research grant applications with relevance to birth defects prevention. Further, the March of Dimes will provide copies of its educational materials to Dr. Barilyak and Dr. Vitali Zamostian, Chair of Environmental Science, Kiev - Mohyla Academy. It is understood these materials can be translated into the many languages spoken in Ukraine and then distributed as needed.

The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program has pledged its support to participate in the development of funding requests for a Ukrainian Birth Defects Surveillance System.

The University of South Alabama, Department of Medical Genetics will continue to provide logistical support for international linkages with Ukrainian birth defects programs. An internet Ukrainian-International hub will be developed.

The International Visiting Team and their Ukrainian Colleagues
The International Visiting Team and their Ukrainian Colleagues
Participants were pleased with the hospitality and genuine warmth extended to them by their Ukrainian colleagues. It was evident that Ukrainian professionals were enthusiastic, competent and possessed the skills required to establish a Ukrainian Birth Defects Surveillance and other research programs. One visitor wrote "I felt I was witnessing something very special ...scientists who were transitioning ... to the intellectual freedom that comes with democracy."

The above expresses an overall view of the visitors. The visit was successfully concluded and we wish now to express our collective gratitude to our hosts.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the participants
July 1, 1998

Back to "Birth Defects in Ukraine" Page

IBIS:International Birth Defects Information Systems

This site offers information mostly for educational purposes. This site is not intended to alter health care protocols nor to serve  as a sole source of  medical information.  Please read full disclaimer. Always seek the advice of your local health care provider.

Copyright 1998 - 2002 I.B.I.S. All rights reserved.
Sponsor: I.B.I.S. | Site Concept: W. W., D. C. | Page Content: W. Wertelecki, M. D.
Email: Webmaster

21/January/2002 dc