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!