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Folic Acid: Reaching Out to Women of Childbearing Age

Published: January 6, 2010

Cover of the Extraordinary Mothers booklet
Cover of the Extraordinary Mothers booklet

Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help reduce a woman's chance of having a pregnancy affected by a serious birth defect of the brain or spine, called neural tube defects (NTDs). Although a woman can get enough folic acid every day by taking a vitamin containing folic acid or eating a serving of fortified breakfast cereal, many women do not know about the importance of folic acid until they are already pregnant. Because these serious birth defects often happen before a woman knows she is pregnant, taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy is key. Further, although NTDs can affect any pregnancy, Latinas have higher rates of affected pregnancies than women of other racial/ethnic groups. Because of this, NCBDDD has focused many of its education and outreach projects on increasing folic acid awareness, knowledge, and consumption among Latinas of childbearing age.

Free materials Also in Spanish

In order to educate all women about the importance of getting enough folic acid before pregnancy, NCBDDD will take part in educational and promotional events during National Folic Acid Awareness Week (NFAAW), January 4-10, 2010. NCBDDD provides free educational materials, in both English and Spanish, to partners and the public through our website. Partners can order large numbers of these materials to distribute to their target audiences during their own National Folic Acid Awareness Week events. NCBDDD also recently partnered with the North Carolina Folic Acid Council to develop a Spanish-language television public service announcement (PSA). This PSA will also be available to partners for their NFAAW events, and can be downloaded for free from the NCBDDD website. Finally, as part of NFAAW, NCBDDD is assisting with a radio media tour in several large media markets, conducted in both English and Spanish.

In addition to the National Folic Acid Awareness Week activities, NCBDDD has several ongoing folic acid education projects designed to reach Latinas of childbearing age, the group with the highest prevalence rate of NTD-affected pregnancies. A cooperative agreement with the National Council on Folic Acid allows NCBDDD to support the importance of folic acid consumption a broader, national scale, while another cooperative agreement with Migrant Health Promotion promotes folic acid to Spanish-speaking Latinas living in migrant colonias along the Texas-Mexico border. NCBDDD is also currently working with the North Carolina March of Dimes to reach Spanish-speaking Latinas in two North Carolina counties through the use of promotoras, or lay health outreach workers, to evaluate their program's effectiveness. Another project with Hollywood, Health and Society will give NCBDDD the opportunity to increase the visibility and reach of the folic acid message through storylines in popular telenovelas and other Spanish-language broadcasting.

Reaching women before pregnancy key

NCBDDD is spreading the word about the benefits of folic acid consumption among women of childbearing age. With more than half of pregnancies in the United States being unplanned, reaching women even before they are considering a pregnancy is critical to the success of our efforts. We have learned that discussing the importance of taking folic acid prior to pregnancy, often times when an audience is not open to the idea of a pregnancy can be challenging. Capitalizing on opportunities for increased visibility of folic acid, as through National Folic Acid Awareness Week activities, and utilizing culturally appropriate tools such as promotoras to reach particular audiences through the year, are ways to increase folic acid awareness and consumption.

For more information on folic acid and NCBDDD efforts to prevent neural tube defects please visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/

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