Human Development

National Folic Acid Awareness Week

Early to Mid January (9–15 in 2006) is

National Folic Acid Awareness Week

Birth defects affect approximately 120,000 newborns in the United States each year; they are the leading cause of infant mortality and contribute substantially to long-term disability.

The focus of this year's Awareness Week is preconceptional health.

Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects of the spine and brain.

Health-care professionals should encourage women of childbearing age to practice healthy preconceptional and prenatal behaviors, including taking multivitamins containing folic acid, managing chronic medical conditions, having regular medical examinations, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.

Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects of the spine and brain (i.e., neural tube defects). The rates of such birth defects declined 26% after folic acid was first added to cereal-grain products in 1998 via federal mandate.

In 1992, lifetime care for infants born in a single year with any of 17 major birth defects was estimated to cost approximately $6 billion.

Information on National Folic Acid Awareness Week is available from the National Council on Folic Acid (http://www.folicacidinfo.org). [MMWR Weekly 6Jan06 / 54(51&52);1301]