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Education Campaigns

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Veggies And Vitamins Folic Acid Campaign
FIRST STEP logo - two baby footprintsPreventing Birth Defects

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  • In North Carolina birth defects are a primary cause of infant deaths. In 2000 there were 171 infant deaths attributed to birth defects, a rate of 1.37 deaths per 1,000 live births.*
  • Prevention of birth defects starts before pregnancy.
  • All women of childbearing age, regardless of whether they are planning a pregnancy, should consume at least 0.4 mg (400 mcg) and not more than 1 mg of folic acid (also called folate) daily.
  • Up to 70% of Neural Tube Defects (NTD), a type of birth defect, can be prevented if folic acid recommendations are followed before and during pregnancy.**
  • Neural Tube Defects affect about 200 pregnancies resulting in about 100 infants born with NTD each year in North Carolina and are the second most common cause of infant death. (Prematurity and low birth weight is the leading cause.)
  • The most common NTD involve defects of the brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida).
    • anencephaly – the brain fails to develop, resulting in death
    • spina bifida – the spinal cord, rather than being covered by the spine, is exposed at the skin surface. Usually results in disabilities such as paralysis, foot and knee deformities, urinary and bowel control problems, and slight to severe mental retardation.

* North Carolina Center for Health Statistics
**Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Folic Acid Now

Vegetables (broccoli,  cabbage, squash, beans) containing Vitamin B.


To increase awareness of the:

  • Benefits of folic acid (a B vitamin).
  • How women can prevent some birth defects including consuming adequate amounts of folic acid through diet and dietary supplements.

Although the causes of most birth defects are unknown, the link between adequate folic acid consumption and the reduced risk for NTDs is well documented.


Family photo
The Campaign targets women of childbearing age and health care providers focused on women’s and adolescents’ health. To help prevent birth defects the Campaign educates women of childbearing age about the need for consuming at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily both before conception and during pregnancy.

Women of reproductive age are the primary target audience of the Folic Acid Campaign because:

  • NTD develop very early in pregnancy (13 – 30 days after conception), often before most women know they are pregnant.
  • More than half of pregnancies are not planned, so it is particularly important that all women of childbearing age get the appropriate daily dose of folic acid.
  • Folic acid helps the mother and the developing baby have a healthy body. Folic acid:
    • Is essential for producing red blood cells and tissue cells.
    • Aids in cell division and growth.
    • Promotes a healthy intestinal tract.
    • Fosters the normal growth of cells.
    • Is linked to a decrease in heart disease in adults.
    • Reduces the occurrence of cleft palate.

Women are at increased risk for having an NTD-affected pregnancy if they have had a previous NTD-affected pregnancy, have spina bifida or have a close family member with spina bifida, or are obese.

Foods made from grain include biscuits, cereal, breads, pasta, rice, crackers

Educational Materials

The Campaign partners with the NC Folic Acid Council and creates educational materials to help increase public awareness about the link between adequate folic acid consumption and reduced NTD. One of the materials is "Love Your Body, Love Yourself", written in English, that describes sources of folic acid and fits inside a woman’s purse for easy reference.

North Carolina

Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC)
(800-962-6817; 704-892-1321) – part of a national network of federally funded parent training and information centers, the ECAC offers NC families individual assistance, parent education workshops, information, and referrals. [PO Box 16, Davidson, NC 28036]

Family Support Network of North Carolina (FSN)
(800-852-0042) – a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine that serves families of children with special needs and professionals serving these families. Provides information about disabilities and resources, offers parent support programs, and encourages parent–professional collaborations. [UNC-CH, Campus Box #7340, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7340]

North Carolina Folic Acid Campaign (1-800-367-2229) – a public education and awareness campaign which aims to reduce the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube birth defects (NTDs). The campaign is a program of the NC Folic Acid Council, a statewide multi-disciplinary group established to address neural tube defects and its consequences in North Carolina.

March of Dimes North Carolina - the North Carolina Chapter of the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by reducing infant mortality and birth defects.

Spina Bifida Association of North Carolina (800-847-2262) – nonprofit organization that provides information, news, and support to N.C. families who have a family member with spina bifida. [5632 Ebley Lane Charlotte, NC 28227, sbanc@mindspring.com]


Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – information about foods, medicines, drugs, cosmetics, research, and medical devices.

For information about folic acid:

  1. Click on the FDA web address above.
  2. Click on Foods.
  3. Scroll down to Special Interest Areas and click on Women’s Health.
  4. Scroll down to Information for Women Who Are and click on Pregnant.
  5. Scroll down to Folic Acid to access fact sheets.

To access reports from the Federal Register about folic acid as a dietary supplement, its role in helping to prevent neural tube defects, and fact sheets search the FDA website, key word Folic Acid.

The March of Dimes Resource Centera leader in birth defects prevention and research, provides information and referral services for parents, health care providers, students, and others worldwide.

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities – information on disabilities and referrals; focuses on children and youth from birth to age 22.

Children With Spina Bifida – information and resources for parents of children with spina bifida; links to other sites about spina bifida and neural tube defects.


The Mother Risk Program at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – information on folic acid and neural tube defects.

To Order Folic Acid Materials:

    1. Click here to view a .PDF file version onscreen.*
    2. Print out the form and fill it in.
    3. Fax it to the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation at
      919-828-1446 or mail to 1300 St. Mary's Street, Suite 204, Raleigh, NC 27605.

To get complete ordering instructions and more detailed information about how to order single copies and bulk copies of all of our Educational Materials, click on Educational Materials.

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