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MSW Alum Raises Awareness of Birth Defects

Posted on September 3, 2013 11:53 am by Alyssa

Kayte Thomas (MSW 2013) is a recent graduate of the master's of social work program. She's also a mother and a national award-winning advocate for the education and prevention of birth defects.

Katye Thomas and PAG

Jodi Lemacks, Kristin Fowles, Kayte Thomas (MSW '13) and Amanda Mateus collaborated on the Common, Costly, Critical campaign and have published articles about preventing birth defects.

Eight years ago during her pregnancy, Thomas’ intuition told her that something wasn’t quite right. When an ultrasound showed gastroschisis, a birth defect characterized by the development of intestines on the exterior of the baby’s body, Thomas began seeking information and support for the congenital defect. But she found minimal research and even less parental support. So she ran three groups in an effort to raise awareness and organize support for the affected parents. The sites quickly became successful. In 2009, Thomas was one of the founding members of the world’s first nonprofit for those touched by gastroschisis, Avery’s Angels.

Although birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants in the U.S., Thomas was astounded by the lack of resources available for the education and prevention of birth defects. She worked with four other parent advocates and organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a public awareness campaign. Thomas helped create a highly effective public service announcement, now viewed in 22 countries and available in Spanish and English. The group also created a website, endbirthdefects.org, as well as press releases, tool kits, and advocacy proclamations all with the same message: birth defects are common, costly, and critical.

The group, the NBDPN Parents Advisory Group, was recognized by the National Birth Defects Prevention Network at its 2013 annual meeting. The Birth Defects Education and Prevention Award, which according to the NBDPN, “honors an agency's or birth defects program's efforts to raise public awareness of birth defects through innovative and collaborative projects,” is generally reserved for medical professionals.

Thomas and three other members of the Parents Advisory Group also collaborated on an article, Insights from Parents about Caring for a Child with Birth Defects,  published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

She continues to advocate for the education and prevention of birth defects in a variety of ways, including congressional outreach in an effort to obtain further funding for the Common, Costly, Critical campaign.

By Alyssa Putt and NC State news services.