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NICHD Mission and Scientific Accomplishments

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​​The NICHD mission is to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that all children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives. The institute also aims to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of people through optimal rehabilitation.

The NICHD has made much progress toward achieving its goals. Since the institute's founding: 

  • Infant death rates in the United States have dropped more than 70%, with much of this decline resulting from NICHD-sponsored research.

  • Survival rates for respiratory distress syndrome have gone from 5% in the 1960s to 95% today because of advances in respirator technologies and the availability of replacement lung surfactant— resulting in part from the research efforts of NICHD and other institutions.

  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, has dropped by more than 50% since the NICHD-led Back to Sleep education campaign began in 1994. NICHD and its collaborators expanded the campaign into Safe to Sleep® in 2012 to help enhance awareness of ways to reduce not only SIDS risk, but also risk factors that contribute to other sleep-related causes infant death.

  • The incidence of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the United States has dropped from 25% to less than 1% as a result of the efforts of NICHD and other agencies and organizations.

  • The incidence of Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), once the leading cause of acquired intellectual disability, has dropped more than 99% because of development of the Hib vaccine by NICHD scientists. Learn more about the Hib vaccine discovery.

  • Phenylketonuria (PKU), a disorder that once caused intellectual disabilities, has been successfully eliminated as a factor in cognitive development thanks to newborn screening and dietary therapy. Learn more about advances in PKU screening and treatment.

  • Congenital hypothyroidism, also once responsible for many cases of intellectual disability, no longer has an impact on cognitive development because of screening techniques used to detect the condition in all newborns in time to allow treatment to prevent its effects. Learn more about research on congenital hypothyroidism.

  • Infertility that at one time kept couples from having babies of their own often can be treated and reversed.

  • Sound scientific information about the safety and effectiveness of different contraceptive methods for women and men is now available.

  • Many social, physical, and behavioral rehabilitation treatments for people with mental, developmental, and physical disabilities are now available.

The following highlight some of the institute’s additional accomplishments:

Annual Research Advances

Snapshots in NICHD Science

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