NH DHHS Celebrates National Folic Acid Awareness Week

Concord, NH - The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Folic Acid Education and Awareness Program is joining with the National Council on Folic Acid in promoting National Folic Acid Awareness Week, January 4–10, 2010.

Up to 70% of neural tube birth defects could be prevented if all women received enough folic acid every day starting before they become pregnant. Birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out she is pregnant. By the time she realizes she is pregnant, it might be too late to prevent those birth defects, because 50% of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Although the number of live births affected by a neural tube defect is low in NH, it is still important for the Folic Acid Program to partner with health professionals and to help educate the community. Constant effort toward prevention of birth defects is best done as a community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day by taking a daily multivitamin and eating a diet rich in folate/ folic acid.

“For folic acid to work, a woman needs to start taking it every day before she becomes pregnant,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS. “By adopting this healthy habit today, women may help prevent a child from being affected by a neural tube birth defect.”

The New Hampshire Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program and Maternal and Child Health agencies across the state are participating in this national campaign to help promote public awareness, by educating women and distributing free multivitamins to women of childbearing age. Since 2006, the NH Folic Acid Education Program has handed out almost 8,000 bottles of multivitamins to women. These multivitamins were purchased through a March of Dimes grant. Women receiving health and nutrition services at local WIC agencies or any of the participating 22 locations across the State may receive a 90-day supply of multivitamins containing the recommended dose of 400 micrograms of folic acid. Education and counseling are also provided to ensure the very best health outcomes for women and babies.

The New Hampshire WIC Nutrition Program provides participants with many folic acid–enriched and naturally occurring folate-rich foods in the new WIC food package. These foods include cold breakfast cereals, hot cereals, peanut butter, beans, orange juice, and fresh, frozen or canned green leafy vegetables.

For free resources and more information about National Folic Acid Awareness Week, visit the National Council on Folic Acid at www.folicacidinfo.org or the New Hampshire Folic Acid Program at www.dhhs.state.nh.us/DHHS/WIC/folicacid.htm. You can also contact the Folic Acid Program at 1-800-852-3310 ext 0571.