Global birth defects app: An innovative tool for describing and coding congenital anomalies at birth in low resource settings

Helen Dolk, Aminkeng Zawuo Leke, Phil Whitfield, Rebecca Moore, Katy Karnell, Ingeborg Barišić, Linda Barlow‐Mosha, Lorenzo D. Botto, Ester Garne, Pilar Guatibonza, Shana Godfred‐Cato, Christine M. Halleux, Lewis B. Holmes, Cynthia A. Moore, Ieda Orioli, Neena Raina, Diana Valencia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Surveillance programs in low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs) have difficulty in obtaining accurate information about congenital anomalies. 

Methods: As part of the ZikaPLAN project, an International Committee developed an app for the description and coding of congenital anomalies that are externally visible at birth, for use in low resource settings. The “basic” version of the app was designed for a basic clinical setting and to overcome language and terminology barriers by providing diagrams and photos, sourced mainly from international Birth Defects Atlases. The “surveillance” version additionally allows recording of limited pseudonymized data relevant to diagnosis, which can be uploaded to a secure server, and downloaded by the surveillance program data center. 

Results: The app contains 98 (88 major and 10 minor) externally visible anomalies and 12 syndromes (including congenital Zika syndrome), with definitions and International Classification of Disease v10 ‐based code. It also contains newborn examination videos and links to further resources. The user taps a region of the body, then selects among a range of images to choose the congenital anomaly that best resembles what they observe, with guidance regarding similar congenital anomalies. The “basic” version of the app has been reviewed by experts and made available on the Apple and Google Play stores. Since its launch in November 2019, it has been downloaded in 39 countries. The “surveillance” version is currently being field‐tested. 

Conclusion: The global birth defects app is a mHealth tool that can help in developing congenital anomaly surveillance in low resource settings to support prevention and care.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalBirth Defects Research
Early online date5 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 May 2021


  • app
  • coding
  • congenital anomaly
  • global health
  • surveillance


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