The Arizona Community Foundation has awarded the Arizona Family Health Partnership (AFHP) a $25,000 grant to implement a statewide public awareness and education campaign for young women about the importance of taking B vitamin folic acid before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
Research consistently shows that the highest rate of unintended pregnancies is among women 18 to 24, a population with the lowest awareness of the benefits of folic acid and its role in preventing birth defects. Folic acid has been proven highly effective preventing birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTDs), which affect the brain and spine.
AFHP will use the funds to activate the Project B Aware campaign, first piloted in 2010 in Phoenix-area high schools by the March of Dimes Arizona Chapter and the Arizona Department of Health Services through a one-time federal grant.
The result of the pilot program was a 50 percent increase in knowledge about folic acid among participating high school students.
“Young women, particularly those who are low-income, are at high risk of unplanned pregnancies and at higher risk of having a baby born with an NTD due to their lack of knowledge about folic acid,” said AFHP CEO Brenda “Bré” Thomas. “Despite being described as an ‘astounding public health silver bullet’ by a 2008 Gallup poll, only 39 percent of women ages 18 to 45 take folic acid daily.”
Research shows that lack of awareness and lack of advice in recommending foliate supplements before and during pregnancies is the primary reason young women don’t take folic acid.
“This important funding from the Arizona Community Foundation will enable us to use the previously created March of Dimes Folic Acid 400 curriculum to reach a much broader statewide audience with this critical health information,” Thomas said.
AFHP will use the March of Dimes-developed curriculum that has been adapted for teens.
The Project B Aware program includes a folic acid pre-test administered to all students and teachers, a PowerPoint presentation about folic acid with interactive student participation, a post-test, a list of foliate-rich foods and information about the importance of taking folic acid daily, and a survey to assess the presentation.
AFHP will recruit and train folic acid educators, identify and coordinate program presentations at specific high schools and administer the pre-and-post tests. The program ends in April 2014. AFHP will partner with Kappa Delta Chi sorority to provide the folic acid education.
AFHP expects to complete presentations to approximately 1,400 students.
For more information about the Arizona Family Health Partnership and Project B Aware, visit www.arizonafamilyhealth.org or call (602) 258-5777 in Maricopa County and (888) 272-5652 outside Maricopa County.