Extension and Ag Research News


N.D. Receives Folic Acid Awareness Grant

The NDSU Extension Service and North Dakota Folic Acid/Healthy Pregnancy Task Force have received a grant to promote the healthful benefits of folic acid.

The Washington, D.C.-based Spina Bifida Association has awarded the North Dakota State University Extension Service and North Dakota Folic Acid/Healthy Pregnancy Task Force a $7,500 grant to promote folic acid.

Folic acid is a B vitamin the body needs to make healthy new cells. If women consume enough folic acid before they become pregnant, that could prevent up to 70 percent of birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some studies indicate folic acid also may help reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease in men and women.

Spina bifida affects the spine and can cause learning disabilities and paralysis in the lower body. Anencephaly affects the brain and can cause babies to die within a few days of birth.

North Dakota has a higher rate of spina bifida than other states. It averages 7.32 cases per 10,000 births, compared with 6.03 cases per 10,000 births in Iowa, 3.66 in Utah and 3.09 in Colorado.

“Our goal is to increase knowledge and awareness of folic acid benefits,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and a member of the North Dakota Folic Acid/Healthy Pregnancy Task Force. The task force includes Extension agents, public health nutritionists, nurses and other health-care professionals.

As part of that effort, the Extension Service and task force will make women of childbearing age aware they should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. The program also will inform women that folic acid is readily available as a supplement, either by itself or in a multivitamin, and in foods such as leafy green vegetables, broccoli, dry edible beans, peanuts, lentils, liver, citrus fruit and enriched bread, pasta, rice and cereal.

The Extension Service and task force plan to reach women through newsletters to participants of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and food stamp nutrition education programs, statewide newspaper articles, interactive educational displays at health fairs, e-mails, table tents in college cafeterias, bookmarks at libraries, brochures that will be available at pharmacies and clinics, labels on oral contraceptive packages, radio public service announcements, ads in bathroom stalls, folic acid cards distributed with marriage licenses, one-on-one counseling for WIC participants and an online module and lesson plan for high school students and teachers.

Garden-Robinson estimates the 2008 campaign will reach more than 75,000 women in North Dakota and parts of western Minnesota through direct education and media efforts.

She added that the timing of this grant award couldn’t be better since January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and Jan. 7-13 is Folic Acid Awareness Week.

For more information, contact Garden-Robinson at (701) 231-7187 or mailto:julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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