Today, we’re combining two prompts into one. We’re introducing ourselves, why we are so passionate about folic acid and women’s nutrition, and why we decided to get involved in Health Activist Writers Month Challenge.
Who Are We?
Go Folic! is a program of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Section. Our project is dedicated to improving the health of teen and adult women by encouraging them to adopt a diet that is rich in folic acid and other vital nutrients. Because it is difficult for our bodies to absorb all of the folic acid we need from food, Go Folic! also encourages women to supplement their diets with a daily multi-vitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid.
Among our many activities, we provide teen and adult women who live in San Francisco with free vitamins. While daily multivitamins are relatively inexpensive, many of our health department clinic clients are students or workers living on minimum wage. As San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world, supplements would otherwise be unaffordable for many of the women we serve.
Why Do We Write?
Over the years, our staff has included women of various ages and ethnicities, including interns. All of us have contributed to the Go Folic! blog at one point or another. Right now, due to budget cutbacks, the blog is maintained by only two of us – the project coordinator, Shivaun Nestor, and intern Janis Rice (more on a personal note from both of us later this month). We write to encourage young women to grow up strong, confident, and healthy. We write to support women in deciding when and how many children to have. We write to support women in their ability to have healthy children.
Why We’re Passionate about Folic Acid
Our bodies make millions of new cells everyday. Folic Acid, or Vitamin B-9, works with other B-vitamins to ensure that when our cells divide and grow, they do so in a healthy way. This means that folic acid is important for everything from our hair, skin, and nails (why we call it the “beauty vitamin) to our hearts, our brains, our nervous systems and our bodies’ ability to handle stress. Since it is water soluble, we need to replenish our supply of folic acid on a daily basis.
Folic acid is extremely important during times of rapid growth, for instance, during puberty. During puberty, folic acid helps a girl’s body mature; studies have found that teen women who get adequate folic acid not only get better grades in school, but that they will have healthier children when they become adults.
Folic acid is especially important several months before a woman gets pregnant, as well as during the first few weeks after an egg is fertilized. This is because a future baby’s spine is formed during the first few weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they are pregnant. Taking a daily multivitamin with folic acid at least 3 months before pregnancy will reduce a woman’s risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, a serious malformation of the brain or spine, by 70%. It may also reduce the risk of premature birth, cleft palate, heart problems and other defects, including autism and developmental delays (see today’s second post on World Autism Awareness Day.)
A Healthy Woman = A Healthy Family = A Healthy Community! So go folic!
In addition to being the 2nd day in the #HAWMC challenge, April 2 is Word Autism Awareness Day. It is estimated that 1 of 50 school children is affected by this condition. The day is intended to raise awareness of this medical issue so that early intervention can be found for those suffering from autism. WegoHealth.com has an incredible section dedicated to this condition, including educational information and support for those who have been affected.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that meeting recommendations for folic acid — at least 600 micrograms per day — in the first month of pregnancy was tied to a 38 percent lower chance of having a kid with autism or Asperger’s. The researchers surveyed California moms, and found that those whose children had autism recalled getting less folic acid through food and supplements early in their pregnancies than those whose kids didn’t develop the disorder.
Folic acid, and its natural form, folate is crucial to brain development and functioning. While this study was preliminary, and the link between folic acid and autism remains controversion, research findings are reassuring since some scientists have theorized that perhaps folic acid fortification in the U.S. was responsible for the increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorders.
To learn more about dealing with autism, check out WegoHealth.com’s autism page at http://autism.wegohealth.com/autism.html or read this wonderful article by Chantal Sicile-Kira, whose son was diagnosed with autism, in the Huffington Post.
March is National Nutrition Month®, a time to focus on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s them is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.” The idea is to decide on your own version of healthy eating, taking into account your lifestyle, what you like to eat, and the cultural and ethnic traditions that you grew up with. As we’ve done every year since Go Folic! started, we staffed a table. In addition to distributing free vitamins, we gave out recipe brochures that included Latin American, African American, and Chinese dishes. We also gave out samples of a dish we call Easy Couscous, a fiber and folate-rich dish that you can make in less than 10 minutes!Easy Couscous was the brainstorm of caterer Claudine Dagit, owner of Stilleto and Spice, who has helped us develop dishes and cater special events, like the San Francisco Black Infant Health Project’s Nutrition and Health Fair a couple of years ago.
To Make Easy Couscous
What you’ll need:
- 1 1/4 cup of Water
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 cup of couscous (sort of like rice, but made from wheat – the whole wheat version is even tastier than regular)
- 1/2 can of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans, they are high in folate)
- 1 jar of sundried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
- A container of crumbled feta cheese
How you make it:
STEP 1: Boil 1 1/4 cups of water with 1 tbs of olive oil
STEP 2: Add 1 cup of couscous to water, stir and cover. Let the couscous sit for 5 minutes
STEP 3: Chop 1/2 jar of sundried tomatoes & add to couscous
STEP 4: Add 1/2 can of garbanzo beans
STEP 5: Mix well and enjoy!
Coming Next Week!
It was fun visiting different booths. Many of them were run by peer educators and leaders, like the at left. This one was put together by the San Francisco Unified School District’s Nutritional Outreach Workers.In addition to snacks, they had a jeopardy-style game to test your nutrition IQ. We video-taped the program director, Adrienne Wilson, about what she thought about “Going Folic,” a tape that we’ll post next week.
This month, Go Folic! celebrates African American History Month We thought we would begin by linking to the statement that Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released in honor of this observance.
Secretary Sebelius began by honoring the contributions that African Americans have made to the field of medicine, “…including Dr. Charles Drew, whose work led to the life-saving ability to store blood plasma; Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the first successful heart surgery in 1893; and Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first African-American professionally trained nurse.”
Secretary Sebelius then went on write about HHS’ commitment to decrease health disparities and increase health access and equity through its HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. She ended her letter by asking all Americans to join HHS in recognizing the achievements of African-Americans and to work towards an America where everyone has the chance to live a healthy life and contribute to their community.
Please click here to read the full statement. And look forward this month to a series of posts celebrating African American contributions to this country’s culinary traditions and medical advances.
If you missed the San Francisco “Silver Ribbon Campaign” event celebrating the 40th birthday of Roe vs. Wade on January 26, 2013, but wanted to participate in the One Billion Rising Flash Mob, there’s still time! Join women all over the world on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, and dance to make a stand against violence towards women. >Click here to learn more!
And, while you’ll have to wait until Valentine’s Day to see the official Flash Mob video from the January 26 event, we found this slide show of the dance on YouTube.
We invite you to join us at Justin Herman Plaza on January 26th to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Roe vs. Wade.” This family-friendly event, which is being organized by the Silver Ribbon Campaign, will feature a flash mob by the Bay Area chapter of Dancing without Borders, a global initiative to end violence and sexual oppression. In addition, there will be speeches, food, face painting, airbrush tattoos and more!
About “Roe vs. Wade”
While most people have heard the term “Roe vs. Wade,” many people don’t know the details. “Roe vs. Wade” is the landmark Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States. At that time, abortion was a matter left to the states, the majority of which had laws making it illegal. The decision stated that Texas state law making abortion illegal during the first and second trimesters was an infringement on the ninth and 14th Amendment rights of woman. Click here to read more about the decision on eHow.com. Or watch this short PBS video:
In addition to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, sponsors include a number of organizations that have supported or worked with Go Folic! including ISIS, Inc. and the California Family Health Council.
Join the Flash Mob!
All women and men who support reproductive freedom are invited to participate in the flash mob. Rehearsals are scheduled throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Rafael. To learn more, click here. As motivation, we’ll leave you with this video!
If you are already a reader of this blog, you are aware that last week, Go Folic! participated in Folic Acid Awareness Week (January 6-12, 2013) with a number of activities and events, including vitamin give-aways. However, we were only one of many organizations across the globe that used last week to promote this important B-Vitamin. In this post, we’d like to feature some of our favorite FAAW ”compadres.”
Some of Our Favorite U.S. Organizations
Every Woman California is an initiative of the Preconception Health Council of California. The group works with health care providers and communities to improve the physical, emotional and social well-being of reproductive-age women. Their website includes excellent information on women’s health topics, such as financial health, emotional wellbeing, and folic acid. It also includes extensive tools for health providers and serves as a state-wide clearing house for agencies involved in promoting women’s wellness, including Go Folic! Follow EWC on twitter @PHCCalifornia.
Everywoman North Carolina was among the first organizations in the U.S. to operate a vitamin distribution program. They have now expanded to include more general information on women health, and steps women can take before getting pregnant to have a healthy baby (preconception health). Their Folic Acid Awareness Week’s twitter feed #NFAAW, was full of useful information and tips regarding folic acid.
Some of Our Favorite International Organizations
We view Go Folic! UK as a “sister” organization. A project of the Scottish Spina Bifida Association, the oworks to ”find new ways to increase folate intake to prevent Neural Tube Defects (NTD) of which spina bifida is the most common.” Their website contains a wealth of great information, as does their YouTube channel, which posts numerous videos about children and adults who are living with NTDs. For the most recent news on folic acid, their Go Folic! Daily is the best English-language source we’ve found. Oh, and we love their catch phrase, “Folic Before You Frolic.”
The MicroNutrient Initiative is the leading international organization working exclusively to eliminate vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the world´s most vulnerable populations. It’s iron and folic acid supplementation program in Nepal supports projects to fortify cereal flours with folic acid and other essential micronutrients as well distributing iron and folic acid supplements to pregnant women through community health volunteers. This program reduced anemia rates in pregnant women from 75% to 42%! Click here to learn more. It was through MNI that we learned about India’s new campaign to provide adolescent school children with iron and folic acid supplements.
Our Favorite Blog Post of the Week
Ashley Aleksey, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in food chemestry, maintains a blog titled Atoms and Empty Space: Breaking the Silence on Mental Illness. In observance of Folic Acid Awareness Week, she published a great post on the link between folic acid, folic acid deficiency, depression, and mental health. This is a “must read” for anyone who is interested in how folic acid impacts mental well-being.
By taking the B-vitamin folic acid at least three months before pregnancy, women can reduce their risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD) by 70%. Since half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control wants all reproductive-age women to take a daily supplement with at least 400 mcg of this nutrient.
Despite this advice, almost 2/3 of women in the U.S. don’t take a folic acid supplement. This week was created by the National Council on Folic Acid in order to increasing awareness of the importance of doing just that.
Why ALL Women Need Folic Acid
If you’re not thinking of getting pregnant right now, you might think, “Why do I need folic acid?” This vitamin plays a crucial role in cell formation and growth, so is important for all women, whether or not they want to get pregnant. As the above video makes clear, taking a daily multi-vitamin with folic acid:
- Is good for your hair, skin and nails;
- May help to lower your risk for certain cancers;
- Can help your body deal with stress.
Go Folic! NFAAW Events
Almost 2/3 of women Go Folic! (a project of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Section) is using the week to celebrating with the following:
- A Multi-Vitamin Give-Away designed to get San Francisco women into the habit of “Going Folic.” Clients at the Department’s youth clinics, and women registering for San Francisco’s health care access program, Healthy SF, will receive a FREE bottle (3 months supply) of multi-vitamins with 100% of the RDA for folic acid.
- San Francisco women, ages 14-44, can also pick up a free bottle of Go Folic! Multi-Vitamins by coming by the project office.
- A daily blog highlighting pertinent topics throughout the week;
- We will also feature other organizations’ NWAAF activities on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Tune in tomorrow to learn how to get the most from your Go Folic! Multis.
There is a a growing body of evidence that fitness is a much better predictor of health than weight . One important study found that people with BMIs (body mass index) in the ”overweight” category (25-29.9, between 156-179 pounds for a 5’5″ tall woman) had a lower risk of death than those whose BMIs put them in the “normal” category.
Diets don’t work…
We know, you’re not just dieting for your health! You also want to fit into your skinny jeans. But restricting calories, while it may get you into those pants for a while, doesn’t work in the long term. Up to 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost, and sometimes more, within three to five years (see “The Fat Trap” by New York Times columnist, Tara Parker Pope).
It’s not just that diets don’t work. The constant emphasis on thinness is bad for our psychological, spiritual and physical health. According to the Association for Size Diversity and Health, which pioneered the Health At Every Size® (HAESSM) approach:
- Restrictive dieting and weight cycling can lead to physical complications including
slowed metabolism, reduced muscle tissue and body temperature,
and eating disorders.
- 81% of 10-year-olds admit to dieting, binge eating, or a fear of getting fat and we are now
seeing eating disorders in children as young as five.
You are more than a number!
Despite what the culture and the $60 Billion + diet industry would have us believe, there is no “ideal number” for health. And just as health comes in all shapes and sizes, so does beauty. As do talent, creativity, intelligence and worth.
How much energy have you spent trying to reach an “ideal” that is’nt healthy or attainable for most of us? What could you accomplish were you to focus that energy elsewhere?
To quote from The Body Positive website, “Women and girls waste their time, brainpower, and money in desperate attempts to achieve unattainable beauty standards. These same resources can, instead, be put toward the pursuit of balanced health behaviors and activities rich with purpose and meaning.”
We’d like to leave y0u with this promotional video from @thebodypositive.