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Food fortification and decline in the prevalence of neural tube defects: does public intervention reduce the socioeconomic gap in prevalence?


Objective — A significant decline in the prevalence of neural tube defects (NTD) through food fortification has been reported. Questions remain, however, about the effectiveness of this intervention in reducing the gap in prevalence across socioeconomic status (SES).

Study Design — Using health number and through record linkage, children born in Ontario hospitals between 1994 and 2009 were followed for the diagnosis of congenital anomalies. SES quintiles were assigned to each child using census information at the time of birth. Adjusted rates and multivariate models were used to compare trends among children born in different SES groups.

Results — Children born in low SES areas had significantly higher rates of NTDs (RR = 1.25, CI: 1.14–1.37). Prevalence of NTDs among children born in low and high SES areas declined since food fortification began in 1999 although has started rising again since 2006. While the crude decline was greater in low SES areas, after adjustment for maternal age, the slope of decline and SES gap in prevalence rates remained unchanged overtime.

Conclusions — While food fortification is successful in reducing the prevalence of NTDs, it was not associated with removing the gap between high and low SES groups.



Agha MM, Glazier RH, Moineddin R, Moore AM, Guttmann A. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013; 10(4):1312-23.

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