Introducing Jenelle Merzon!

Please join us in welcoming Jenelle Merzon to the Go Folic! family.  Jenelle comes to us from Tuoro University, where she is earning her Masters in Public Health degree (MPH).  She will be interning with Go Folic! through January 2015, working on creating a multi-pronged SFDPH-wide event in conjunction with next year’s Folic Acid Awareness Week, scheduled for January 5, 2015 through January 11, 2015.  As Jenelle will also become a regular contributor to this blog, we promise to keep readers updated on our 2015 Folic Acid Awareness Week plans as they take shape.

In the meantime, here is Jenelle in her own words…

Jenelle MerzonI was born and raised on the central coast in San Luis Obispo, California.  I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Exercise Physiology.  I have always had an interest in the human body and a passion for staying healthy through exercise and proper nutrition.  These passions led me to physical therapy.

The experience I gained while working in physical therapy set my foundation for pursuing a Masters of Public Health.  I will receive my MPH in December 2014, with an emphasis in Community Public Health, from Touro University, California.  I have volunteered and worked on many different community health projects, ranging from coordinating health promotion events to being a research assistant at Touro University.  While at Touro University I worked on studies that focused on improving MPH student’s health competencies and skills.  I am very excited for the opportunity to begin my internship with the GoFolic! Project within the Department of Public Health, San Francisco.

I am much more than just school and work!  You can commonly find me training for marathons, snowboarding, or attempting to train my dachshund puppies.  Most recently you’ll notice that I love being a newlywed with my husband, Andre.  I would probably be most known for being goofy, a vegetarian for 20+ years with no real reason why, and taking trips around the world.



A Warm Welcome to Camarin Sanford!

We want to welcome Camarin Sanford, who will be working as an intern with the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Family Planning Program (Go Folic!’s parent program) through February 2015.  Ms. Sanford, who comes to us with a wealth of experiences in the social work field, is looking to expand her skills as a sexual health educator.  Among other projects, she will be updating our Pregnancy Referral Manual, coordinating community groups to review and approve client education materials, and helping to craft (and deliver) several fun sexual health education sessions at one of our partner organizations, the San Francisco Black Infant Health Program.  We are also hoping that she will contribute some posts to this blog.

Without further ado, here is Camarin in her own words…

Bio PictureGreetings!

My name is Camarin Sanford and I am a south Sacramento, CA native. I am currently a Title X Open Doors Intern with the San Francisco Department of Public Health Family Planning Program. Additionally, I serve as the Family Services Manager at a San Francisco based non-profit drug treatment center servicing female offenders on parole.

While interning with the Family Planning Program I endeavor to explore and advance the alliance of mental health and public health services and to propel its impact on young women of color. Historically, the African-American female body and African-American sexuality was a commoditized product. As a result of this devaluation, in addition to many complex extraneous variables, the understanding of African-American female sexuality can be nebulous. While interning, I will strive to learn about the ways in which women of color, specifically African-American women, can be linked to lasting and effective public health, mental health, and sexual health services.   I am training to become a sexual health educator and reproductive health specialist to foster sexual health equity among at-risk populations.

I am a proud and esteemed alum of Clark-Atlanta University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology. While in Atlanta, I trained extensively as a post abortion counselor, juvenile mental health intern, and case manager during my undergraduate matriculation. As a result of these experiences, I found my passion to serve others. I plan to earn my MPH/MSW in the coming year.

Find a way or make one!

Fun Facts about me:

  • I have skydived from 13,000 feet!
  • I was born with eleven fingers!
  • I own more pairs of Converse™ Chuck Taylors than I do high heels!
  • I love the Miami Dolphins!!

Women’s Health News Round-Up: November 15, 2013

This week’s news round-up focuses on health events and new or revised health resources.  What’s included?  A New York Times article about the question of why Americans weigh more now than we did 40 years ago, Diabetes Awareness Month, lesbian/bi/queer women and STI risk, and the relative benefits of HPV vs. pap screening.

Gut bacteriaWhy do Americans Weigh More Now than We Did 40 Years Ago?
For many people it seems clear that the “obesity epidemic” (a phrase we don’t like) is due to bigger portion sizes and less physical activity, a view that is not supported by the research – you cannot tell how much someone eats or exercises just by looking at them.  However, a recent article in the New York Times explores one important factor with which few people are  familiar – changes in the gut bacteria that help us digest carbohydrates, provide vitamins, and regulate how much fat our body stores.  Click here to read the article.

National Diabetes Month 2013November is Diabetes Awareness Month!
Diabetes is a preconception health issue.  Uncontrolled, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes raise the risk of problems for baby and mother. Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans and an estimated 79 million people are at risk for developing it. During November, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) and its partners are working with individuals, families and communities to take action and encourage simple, but important lifestyle changes to improve their health – particularly if they have diabetes or are at risk for the disease.

Also during Diabetes Awareness Month, the American Diabetes Association, which sponsors the event, is focusing on raising awareness that diabetes is a condition that affects people who have it on a daily basis.  They are inviting people with diabetes to share their photos and stories of living with the disease on Facebook as part of their “Day in the Life of…” campaign.

What to cook if you have diabetes? You can download “Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families” by clicking here (PDF – 1 MB).

Lesbians in love - still from the Taiwanese film, Spider Lilies"Are women who have sex with women at risk for getting STIs?
The website recently updated their website for lesbian and bisexual women.  They now provide a whole section on how STIs are transmitted during sex between women.  In addition to impairing fertility, untreated STIs – including some that are more likely to affect women who have sex with women and trans men,  can affect a developing fetus and raise the risk for preterm birth.  Access the health fact sheet here.

a doctor talks to her patientHPV Screening vs. Pap Smears
Finally, a new study published in the Lancet suggests that screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is more effective than Pap tests for protecting women against invasive cervical cancer.  This is life-saving news for the 12,340 who are diagnosed with the condition annually.  Get the full story here.

Why aren’t we all talking about Renisha McBride? Racial Injustice as a Public Health Issue

Go Folic! usually steers clear of controversy.  So why I am writing this post, especially as I am one of only two regular contributors to this blog? As a white woman who is concerned with women’s well-being and who works in the field of public health, I feel compelled to speak out, and to ask my other white colleagues to follow suite.

Who is Renisha McBride?

Renisha McBride funeral coverAt about 2:30 AM on Saturday, November 2, Renisha McBride got into a car accident in her home neighborhood of Dearborn, Michigan. She decided to knock on the door of a nearby house in order to seek assistance.  After being refused help, she began to walk away. It was then that the 70-year old homeowner shot her in the back of the head with a rifle, claiming that he feared for his life.

As many of her advocates have pointed out, if Renisha had been white and the elderly man who shot her had been black, the shooter would have been jailed and the national news machine would have picked up this story immediately.  But Renisha was black, and the shooter was white. It’s Sunday morning now, and this story is getting more coverage in the mainstream press . However, early on, one of the only non-black national news sources to cover the story was (thank you, Joan Walsh).

I am a progressive news junkie – a day doesn’t pass when I don’t listen to KPFA, watch the evening news, and peruse the headlines of the New York Times.  The fact that it took almost a full week for me to learn about Ms. McBride’s death – via a Davey D interview on Hard Knock Radio with filmmaker Dream Hampton – says much about the state of racism and racial injustice in America.

Theodore Paul Wafer, the man who used such force when he shot Renisha that her family was unable to hold an open casket funeral, cited Michigan’s “Stand Your Ground Law” as justification, claiming that he was afraid for his life. How can one be threatened by an unarmed teenage girl who is walking away from you?  It is certainly beyond me to understand.  There can be no justification for what happened.

Why write about Renisha McBride on a health blog?

Within public health circles, it is well known that African-American women are two to three times more likely than white women to give birth to babies that are born too small (low birthweight, or less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) and too early (preterm, or at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy). These health disparities continue to impact the health of black women, men and children throughout the life course; poor birth outcomes predict infant mortality, as well as other adverse outcomes, from child disabilities and asthma to adult cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

When first presented with these statistics, I assumed that poverty (certainly a result of racism) was to blame.  It was overwhelming to learn that even black women who are well-educated and financially successful – in other words, women who I count among my friends and colleagues – experience poor birth outcomes at two to three times the rate of their white peers.

Why do these disparities exist, even after socioeconomic status is taken into account?  As Jason Silverstein so eloquently documents in a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, “Racism is Bad for Our Bodies.” Living in a world where one not only experiences discrimination, but also must ready oneself to experience it on a daily basis creates a constant state of stress that a growing number of studies have shown to increase the risk of everything from depression, to hypertension to breast cancer to infant mortality. As Mr. Silverstein points out, the problem is so pronounced and so so serious that two prestigious journals – The American Journal of Public Health and The Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race - dedicated entire issues to the subject.

What is a white woman’a role?

In her interview with Davey D, which you can listen to in the KPFA archives, Dream Hampton states that white women have an obligation to confront our own racism and our own fears of black people.  I suspect that many of us who work in public health would maintain that in embracing the “fight” against health disparities, we have already done so.

black dad and babyIs this actually the case?  In my fields – reproductive and Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) – black men are usually excluded from conversations (and program funding), even though for the majority of women, they are one half of the equation.  Even worse, black men are frequently demonized as the perpetrators of violence against black women.

These beliefs clearly reflect the racial narrative that is woven into the fabric of white American culture and media, in which people who inhabit black or brown bodies are portrayed as criminals, as slaves, as victims, but rarely as full human beings.

Black folks are not a cause…

Recently, I was asked to join a community advisory board for a project that is addressing race-based health disparities.  During our first meeting, members were asked to state why we were interested in the project.  Almost every white woman at the table, myself included, said something about her commitment to “The Cause.” However, black members’ responses were women far more personal, as women talked eloquently about their own experiences and/or the real life impact of racial injustice on the health of people that they loved.

I thought about my own response long after the meeting.  Intuitively, I knew it was wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on why, despite how deeply troubling I found it.  When I sat down to write this post, it hit me – I had turned black women into a cause, an act that is every bit as dehumanizing as acting on other racial stereotypes can be.

“It’s the Skin We’re In”

We cannot escape the skin we’re in, no matter our color.  But those of us who are white can afford to ignore its consequences.  In a study that was initially published in the January 2009 issue of the Maternal and Child Health Journal, black women of all socioeconomic backgrounds reported racism experiences during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and vigilance in anticipating future racism events.

The “cause” of racism I can walk away from when I leave my office if I am white. It is much more difficult to walk away from racism when I understand a problem as affecting colleagues and people I love on a daily basis.

Were I to have a daughter of Renisha’s age who found herself in the same circumstances, I would want her to be able to seek help, in whatever neighborhood she found herself.  Living in a world where one must constantly fear for one’s own life or the life of one’s children, can only intensify the health impacts of discrimination.

As one protester in Detroit pointed out to a Voice of Detroit Reporter, “I have a twelve-year-old daughter. I don’t want to hear this kind of news about her. We have a Black President, but it is still open season on us. I’ve been working since the age of 14 and have three college degrees, but people still stereotype me, following me around as I’m shopping.”

It is incumbent upon all of us who work in the health field and are white to support our black sisters and brothers in their fight to ensure an end to this “open season” on black folks of all ages.  We must make repealing “Stand Your Ground” laws and “Stop and Frisk” policies a matter of public health.

Before that, If we genuinely want no more Oscar Grants, no more Trayvon Martins, no more Jack Lamar Robersons, no more Jonathan Ferrells, and no more Renisha McBrides, we must confront the racist, irrational fears we hold of both black women and men. (Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine can be good place to start). We must refuse to feel comfortable with or to support media portrayals of black men and women as criminals, victims, or causes, and examine our motives in wanting to help.  We must listen to and acknowledge the stories that black folks tell about their experiences of racism.  And we must invite our other white friends and colleagues to do the same.

In Closing


Shivaun Nestor, Go Folic! CoordinatorWritten with great respect,

Thoughts? Differences of opinion?  Please comment, remembering that we reserve the right to moderate and expect that people discuss issues with respect.

Foodie Tuesday: Garlicky Sautéed Greens

This is the season for dark, leafy greens – collards, mustard, beet, kale, even cabbage!  While in Northern California, we can get dark leafy greens pretty much all year-round, they grow best in cooler weather, making fall and winter the best seasons to eat them.  For today’s recipe, we were inspired by the beautiful pre-washed braising greens that we found at the Happy Boys Farm farmers’ market stands this weekend (see our first photo).

Greens are high in so many nutrients and so tasty that we can’t help featuring them often.  They are rich in both minerals (iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins (folate and other B vitamins, K, C, and E). They also provide the phytonutrients beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems. They even contain small amounts of Omega-3 fats.

This Italian-inspired recipe would make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table, and could also be used with lightly pre-steamed broccoli.  It is one of the quickest greens recipe that we’ve published over the years.  First, it uses baby greens, which are less time-intensive.   It also uses pre-washed greens, which greatly cuts down on the prep time.  If you can’t get to a farmer’s market, consider using pre-washed bagged greens, available in many supermarkets.

Garlicky Sauteed Greens

Garlicky Sautéed Greens
Makes 6 servings
Folate per serving: between 20 – 60 mcg (5-15% RDA)


  • 1 & 1/2 lb. mixed, pre-washed braising greens (collards, kale, mustard, beet, turnip), cut on the short side into 1-inch strips
  • 1 TBS cooking olive oil
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, depending upon taste, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 TSP crushed red pepper, or more to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock + more as needed
  • 1 – 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil, to finish
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, to finish


  1. Heat oil in large skillet until warm but not smoking.  Add minced garlic and sauté until soft and slightly browned.  Be careful not to burn the garlic – it can turn very quickly. 
  2. Add crushed red pepper and stir briefly with spoon.
  3. Add a handful of greens, stirring constantly.  Add another handful of leaves as the first batch wilts slightly – continue until all greens have been added.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in chicken stock.
  5. Steam greens in stock until chicken stock is absorbed and the greens are cooked through but still bright green and retain some shape (about 4-8 minutes, depending upon greens).
  6. Remove from heat, and stir in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.  Taste and add more salt, if needed.
  7. Serve immediately.

Optional cooking additions: For a slightly nutty flavor, add 2-3 tbs. of toasted pine nuts before serving.  For a Sicilian twist, add 3-4 tbs. of raisins with the stock and then add the toasted pine nuts before serving.

Nutritional cooking tip: Greens need to be slightly cooked in order to absorb the iron they contain, but not cooked so long that the folate is destroyed.

Source of nutritional information:

Foodie Tuesday: Glazed Chicken Salad with Fuyu, Avocado & Pomegranate

Honey Glazed Chicken Salad with Persimmon, Avocado and Pomegranate

Why do we love the fall?  For one thing, fuyu (Japanese persimmons) are back in season!  While fuyu have small amounts of folate, they are big on overall nutrition.  High in fiber at 6 grams, one fruit also contains 55%  of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A and 21% of your daily minimum requirement for vitamin C, both of which are good for skin. It also has 8% of your RDA for potassium, to keep your muscles in good working order.

fuyu at the Ferry Building Farmer's MarketToday’s recipe combines fuyu, pomegranate seeds, avocado and folate-full greens with glazed chicken, for an elegant company brunch or lunch-time winter salad, one high in nutrients and bursting with flavors, both sweet and savory.  This recipe takes a little longer than many Go Folic! recipes, but it’s worth it.  Serve with a nice walnut or cranberry bread, and your favorite ice tea.

Glazed Chicken Salad with Fuyu, Avocado & Pomegranate
Prep time: 40 Minutes
Servings: 4, 155 mcg folate (38.5% RDA)

INGREDIENTSFor the honey-glazed chicken:

  • 2 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbs mild olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbs finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tbs fresh pomegranate juice
  • 1 tbs sherry vinegar
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs hazelnut or walnut oil

For the salad:

  • 2 small Fuyu persimmons, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 cups pre-washed baby arugula
  • 2 cups pre-washed baby spinach
  • 2 cups pre-washed sweet baby lettuces
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced, sprinkled with lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub chicken with salt and pepper to taste, and place on a baking sheet skin side up.  Roast for 20 minutes. While chicken is roasting, stir together honey and lemon and set aside.
  2. After chicken has cooked 20 minutes, remove from oven, and discard the skin.  Spread with the lemon-honey mixture.  Return to oven and cook chicken, basting with pan juices, until meat is opaque throughout, about 15 minutes longer.
  3. Remove chicken pan from heat, and let sit in pan juices.  When cool, cut into bite-sized cubes.
  4. In a small bowl, combine chopped shallots, pomegranate juice, sherry and rice vinegars, and salt; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in walnut and olive oils.
  5. In a large bowl, toss persimmons and chicken with dressing; season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Gently toss with greens.
  6. Arrange salad on a serving platter, tuck in avocado slices, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, and serve.

Hint #1: Unlike their Western cousins, which are ripe when soft, fuyu are ripe when very firm to the touch.  And as you cut them into wedges for the salad, don’t worry about taking out the seeds – they’re edible!

Hint #2: Cut down on prep time by cutting vegetables while chicken is cooking and by using pre-seeded pomegranate seeds.