Preventing Birth Defects with Folate and Folic Acid

Plan Focuses on Education for Professionals and Intervention for Young Women

From 1998 to 1999, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health convened a blue ribbon panel to develop a strategic plan to encourage women of childbearing age to increase their intake of folate and folic acid.

Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that 50 to 70 percent of neural tube defects—serious birth defects involving incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord—can be prevented if women increase their intake of folate and folic acid before they become pregnant and continue during pregnancy.

The panel, which included national experts from the fields of pediatrics, women's health, and health education, reviewed the available evidence and outlined the best strategies to promote consumption of folate and folic acid.