Folic Acid Awareness Week Coming up in January 2007

December 5, 2007

Source: APHA

The 2007 Folic Acid Awareness Week Campaign, which engaged partners in 46 states in 2006, is in its third year. The focus for 2007 is on action, with great new tools to make it easier to share the folic acid awareness message. The resources include downloadable brochures, educational outreach activities, and new E-Cards. In addition, free consumer materials can be ordered through the Web site. Spanish and English brochures, bookmarks, and new stickers are available. These tools present an easy way for physicians and health care educators, who use electronic communication tools, to share the message faster with more of the women who need it most.

The National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA) asks for a personal commitment from anyone who interacts with women of child-bearing age, especially health care providers. Through NCFA, a health care provider can obtain free materials for distribution, as well as wear and share the new stickers with their patients. Wearing the stickers themselves and providing them during patient visits presents a great opportunity to share the message that every woman of child-bearing age needs to hear. Learning about the importance of folic acid from their health care provider increases the probability of women taking action to get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.

Folic acid is a B-Vitamin necessary for proper cell growth. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid by taking a multivitamin daily and by eating fortified grains and a variety of foods as part of a healthy diet. Following this recommendation helps prevent pregnancies affected by neural tube birth defects (NTD), serious birth defects of the brain and spine.

Spina Bifida, the most common NTD, is the leading cause of childhood paralysis, and presents lifelong challenges for affected families. Research has shown that if adequate amounts of folic acid are consumed before pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects can be prevented. Research also indicates that Latina women in the United States have up to three times the risk of delivering babies with neural tube defects as non-Latina Whites ("Folic Acid and Birth Defects Prevention: Focus Group, Research with Women at Risk," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 1998). In addition to preventing a NTD, folic acid also reduces the risk of other birth defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and heart defects. It may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and colon, breast, and cervical cancer. It may even help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Yet, 65 percent of women are still not getting enough folic acid.

In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration required the addition of folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, pastas, rice, and other grain products in order to increase the amount of synthetic folic acid in the diet of the general population. Though it is possible to obtain the recommended dosage of folic acid through unfortified foods, it is difficult. The human body actually absorbs the synthetic form of folic acid better than the natural form of folic acid, called "folate." The easiest way to be sure to get the recommended daily amount of folic acid is to take a multivitamin every day.

For more information about folic acid and National Folic Acid Awareness Week, visit the National Council on Folic Acid website.

Learn more about activities during Folic Acid Awareness Week.