Congenital anomalies, also known as birth defects, are structural or functional abnormalities, including metabolic disorders, which are present at birth. Congenital anomalies are a diverse group of disorders of prenatal origin, which can be caused by single-gene defects, chromosomal disorders, multifactorial inheritance, environmental teratogens or micronutrient malnutrition.

This manual is intended to facilitate the collection of essential information for the purpose of assessing and tracking the burden of congenital anomalies.


This manual will help the reader to:

  • Describe the purpose and importance of public health surveillance of congenital anomalies
  • Describe the use of logic models for planning and evaluation of a surveillance programme
  • Understand how to present data to policy-makers
  • Identify an initial list of congenital anomalies to consider for monitoring
  • Describe the tools needed to ascertain and code identified cases
  • Describe the processes for managing and analysing data
  • Understand how to calculate the prevalence of congenital anomalies

How to Use

This manual is intended to serve as a tool for the development, implementation and ongoing improvement of a congenital anomalies surveillance programme, particularly for countries with limited resources. The focus of the manual is on population-based and hospital-based surveillance programmes. Any country wishing to expand its current hospital-based programme into a population-based programme, or to begin the initial development of a population-based registry, should find this manual helpful in reaching its goal.