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Why birth defect in Latin America?
    How did we become involved with this topic, and why are we excited about it can be told at the same time.
    As medical geneticists, and as South Americans, we were interested in working with populations rather than with individual patients in order to benefit more people with our professional work. This took us into the broad field of chronic illnesses, and within it, into a group of pathology that required no advanced technology at all for its study.
    At that time, some 30 years ago, birth defects were already fashionable in the developed world; partly because they were the first cause of infant death; partly because of the recent epidemic of congenital anomalies produced by thalidomide.
    Nevertheless, birth defects were insignificant for South American public health facing infant mortality rates ranging from 50 to 150 per thousand. For this reason, the ECLAMC had always been supported by research, more interested in the future than in the present, instead of by public health funds.
    ECLAMC involves about 300 pediatricians, obstetricians, and medical geneticists, working in more than 150 hospitals. All of them following the same protocol for examining newborns in search for anomalies, and sending their observations monthly to a central coordinating body. Month after month, for over thirty years.
    ECLAMC have produced more than 150 papers in scientific mainstream journals, more than 50 master and PhD thesis, and served as a model for similar birth defect programs in other areas of the world. However, we believe the most outstanding characteristic of ECLAMC being its long term survival, overcoming 30 years of terrorism, military dictatorships, civil wars, political persecutions, and economical bankruptcies.
    How was it achieved? By being a non governmental organization, having no own funds, but funded research projects instead; by dealing with people instead of by institutions; by being transnational, working for South America, as a whole instead of for individual countries.

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