Last Update: 08/25/2006 Printer Friendly Printer Friendly   Email This Page Email This Page  

Institute mission and accomplishment highlights

The mission of the NICHD 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, free from disease or disability, and to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people through optimal rehabilitation.


The NICHD has made revolutionary progress toward achieving its goals.  Since the Institute was founded:

  • Infant death rates in the United States have dropped more than 70 percent, with much of this decline resulting from NICHD-sponsored research.
  • Survival rates for respiratory distress syndrome have gone from 5 percent in the 1960s, to 95 percent today, due to advances in respirator technologies and the availability of replacement lung surfactant, resulting from the research efforts of the NICHD and other Institutes.
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome has dropped more than 50 percent, since the NICHD-led Back to Sleep education campaign to reduce the risk of SIDS began.
  • Transmission of HIV from infected mother to fetus and infant has dropped from 25 percent to less than 2 percent, as a result of NICHD's efforts in collaboration with other agencies and organizations.
  • The incidence of Haemophilus Influenzae B (Hib), once the leading cause of acquired mental retardation, has dropped more than 99 percent, because of development of the Hib vaccine by NICHD scientists, which has nearly eliminated this disease.
  • Congenital hypothyroidism, once responsible for many cases of mental retardation, 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.
  • Phenylketonuria, a disorder that also caused mental retardation in many individuals, has been successfully eliminated as a factor in cognitive development through newborn screening and dietary therapy.
  • 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.