It is very important that we continue the cooperation that has existed between this great university and the Centers for Disease Control for a number of years, and that today we reaffirm our joint commitment to tackle the neuro-birth defect that robs too many children of their health and their lives. I was pleased to meet the young mother and her baby girl because I know, as a mother of a girl, how important it is that we cherish every child. And, I know this young mother understands the benefits of taking folic acid during the early months of pregnancy. This is a message and a lesson that is being transmitted to millions of women around the world. Because we have seen all too often how Spina Bifida and other neural tubular defects affect hundreds of thousands of pregnancies around the world and over fifty thousand here in China alone. We know -- and thanks to the research you have done here -- that we can do much to prevent this leading cause of death of infants in the first weeks of life, and to prevent the defects that many children endure. If we take this research that we have done, and be sure that we spread the message as you are doing, then women will be more aware of what they themselves can do to prevent defects and deaths.
It is also significant that you are discovering that there may be another benefit of folic acid, namely, a marked decrease in congenital heart defects in newborns. We look forward to working together to learn more about this possible new research. Today the CDC and the Beijing Medical University come together again to announce a new and expanded tradework for collaboration that will build on the progress we have already made together. The signing of this Declaration of Understanding calls for collaboration on prevention of birth defects, disabilities, and health risks resulting from environmental factors such as exposure to lead, radiation, and water pollution.
This is one of the most significant areas for medical research that we should be pursuing throughout the world. We are learning more in my own country about the environmental causes of various diseases, particularly in infants and in children. We are learning in great steps how different children are from adults. If one thinks about it, they are not little adults. They actually breathe in more air, they roll around in the dirt, they are exposed to more of the environment than adults are. So it is critical that we learn more about the environmental effects that do affect women during pregnancy, and babies, and children. We are very excited about this collaboration. As we witness the signing of the Declaration, I hope that we redouble our efforts to be partners and collaborators on behalf of women, children, men -- everyone who sees the expertise that comes from a great university such as this -- through the doctors that you train and the research that you do so that we can better promote the health of all of our people.
This unique partnership goes beyond making positive changes to public health practices in the United States, China and around the world; it also strengthens goodwill and scientific collaboration between our two countries. I want to commend all of you here at Beijing Medical University, and I also commend the CDC, for all the hard work that has brought us to this point, and I wish to commend you on your future collaboration. By working together we will make progress and perhaps, in the twenty-first century, our grandchildren will have to look in history books, not medical books, to learn about diseases like Spina Bifida. We have that progress within our grasp if we work together, if we make the necessary research breakthroughs, and then we take the knowledge that arises out of great universities such as this and disseminate it to women like the young women we see throughout your country, my country and the world -- paying particular attention to rural women and poor women whether in rural or urban areas. If we do that, we will all see great progress in improving public health in the years to come and that will mean we will see more happy mothers and babies like the one we saw today. Thank you very much.
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