Skip to main content

DHEC, DDSN, and DHHS Applaud State Proclamation, Urge Prevention and Services in Observance of Birth Defects Awareness Month

COLUMBIA, S.C. — In observance of Birth Defects Awareness Month, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) are encouraging residents to take preventative measures and learn about available services, so more child births across the state result in happy and healthy babies. Birth Defects Awareness Month is observed annually in January.

“Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths in South Carolina, and individuals born with a birth defect often face lifelong challenges,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director. “Improvements in medical care, prevention, treatment, early detection, and early interventions have greatly enhanced the quality of life and extended the life span of those born with birth defects. Although not all birth defects are preventable, there are steps expectant parents can take to reduce the risk of birth defects, as well as to identify potential problems early. In some cases, the baby can even be treated while still in the womb if the problem has been identified. We strongly encourage expectant parents to take steps early on that can help increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.”

In addition to the three state agencies, Gov. Henry McMaster issued a proclamation in recognition of Birth Defects Awareness Month. In part, the proclamation urges the use of folic acid, a natural form of Vitamin B, that helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine. It also applauds all three agencies and their work through the South Carolina Birth Defects Surveillance and Prevention Program, which “reduced the rate of neural tube defects in South Carolina from twice the national average to below the national average,” since it was formed in 1992.

DHEC assists families with children who have birth defects through surveillance, newborn testing for genetic disorders, referrals of infants with birth defects to treatment and care, promotion of preconception care and early access to prenatal care, and the agency’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) program, which provides services to qualifying residents ages 18 and under. These services include information and referral, care coordination, and financial assistance with payment for medical services, supplies and equipment.

The South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs plans, develops, coordinates and funds services for residents with various severe, lifelong disabilities. DDSN provides various services to individuals with birth defects and their families, most notably through the agency’s Early intervention Program. The program takes a family-centered approach based on the

principles of respecting every family’s individuality and aims to support and encourage families in their efforts to independently meet the needs of their child with special needs. DDSN provides these services to children ages 3-6, while BabyNet, a program under SCDHHS, serves children ages three and under, by providing early intervention services. Together, the two agencies serve more than 11,000 infants and young children statewide.

“We are thrilled that our state is recognizing National Birth Defect Awareness Month through this proclamation, and by highlighting the various services and prevention methods available to South Carolina families,” said Joyce Kimrey, DDSN’s Early Intervention Director. “Through our state agencies and partner organizations, there is no shortage of resources available, so we encourage parents to take advantage and give their children the best opportunity to succeed.”

SCDHHS is the state agency that operates South Carolina’s Healthy Connections Medicaid program. Medicaid is a medical assistance program that pays medical bills for individuals whose income is insufficient to meet the cost of necessary medical services. Pregnant women whose household income is up to 199% of the federal poverty level are eligible for full-benefit Medicaid coverage. Approximately 60% of the births in South Carolina are covered by the Healthy Connections Medicaid program.

“Newborn screenings are a covered service for Healthy Connections Medicaid members and these screenings are an important step in ensuring healthy outcomes for South Carolina families,” said SCDHHS Chief of Staff and Deputy Director of Programs Eunice Medina. “We look forward to continuing our work to promote better outcomes for South Carolina’s mothers and babies through our increased focus on improving utilization of prenatal care services in 2024.”

Tips and resources for preventing birth defects can be found on the DHEC website. For more information on early intervention services, visit, DDSN, and BabyNet’s webpages, and this page for links to DDSN and BabyNet’s referral pages.


Print Version

All Communications