A word from Curtis Chan


Good evening San Francisco!  I hope everyone was able to enjoy the perks of folic acid awareness week.  This week was just the beginning of a new year, a year where awareness and action will be the driving force taking control of our very own health!

Today’s blog comes to us from the fabulous Curtis Chan, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Maternal, Adolescent & Child Health in SF.  Let’s here what he has to say….

  1. Importance of Folate
  • Vitamin B9, also called folic acid or folate is found naturally in some foods, including leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, salmon, and whole grains.   However, most women do not eat enough of these foods to provide the optimal health benefit of folic acid.
  • B9 is an essential nutrient for amino acid synthesis and DNA replication.  Hence, it’s particularly important during the critical first 8 weeks of pregnancy, during the critical window of early brain and spinal cord development of the fetus.
  • Compelling research showing that folic acid drastically prevented neural tube defects caused the US Preventive Services Taskforce and the National Academy of Sciences (1996) to recommend daily consumption of 400 mcg of folic acid.
  1. Study Findings
  • In July 2014, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the main professional organization for OB-GYN physicians, published in its highly reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, a research article from Harvard Medical School, “Maternal pre-pregnancy folate intake and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth.”
  • The study showed that the risk of miscarriage (or spontaneous abortions) was 20% lower among women taking high amounts of folate acid (730 ug/d) compared to those with the lowest intake (0 ug/d).
  • Since 1992, public health and medical authorities have recommended that all women U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all women capable of becoming pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent neural tube defects.  While many women aren’t familiar with the brain and spinal cord deformities of neural tube defects, research has since shown other health benefits of folic acid to the mother and infant.
  • The significant risk reduction in miscarriage is another important reminder about the benefits of women taking folic acid vitamins as part of their daily routine, before becoming pregnant.

Curtis Chan, MD, MPH

Medical Director of Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health

San Francisco Department of Public Health

30 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 260b, SF, CA 94102

Hi again…!


Hi again everyone! It’s been a while since we’ve last posted, so we decided to start to get back on track. First things first, a warm welcome to all of our new followers and an even warmer hello to our dedicated previous followers. Go Folic! Get Healthy is a nutritional project we have created here in San Francisco. We are all about YOU! Our primary focus is ensuring every female of child-bearing age gets the proper amount of folic acid (according to the NIH an average of 400mcg). Go Folic! Get Healthy is so committed to making sure every female in SF can get adequate folic acid we provide FREE VITAMINS!! Currently you can come to 30 Van Ness, suit 210 during business hours (Monday – Thursday, 1pm-4pm) and we will give you a free bottle of multivitamins.

Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 5, 2014- January 11, 2014 and during that week we will have so many great activities going on in the community, but most importantly that will be the start of your local community clinics distributing multivitamins. Way more convenient, right?!

WHAT IS IT REALLY? What is folic acid?? Folic acid is water-soluble B vitamin, which is important for women to get before, during, and after pregnancy. Folic Acid helps produce DNA and form healthy new cells. The process of creating new healthy cells is inevitably important to a developing fetus.

WHY? Why, you ask. 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned! WHAT THE FOLIC?? So all you women out there who are not planning on having a baby anytime soon and women who are…. Listen up…. Folic Acid is VERY important in helping reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are defects in the brain or spine of the developing fetus, which ultimately lead to various problems when the baby is born.

So now that we know why us ladies should take folic acid if we get pregnant, let’s talk about the other reasons we want to take folic acid. How many times have you looked in the mirror and wondered when is your hair finally going to grow out of the, not-so-hot-haircut-anymore? Well ladies, fortunately the answer has been right in front of us. Yes, you guessed correctly, the answer is folic acid. Folic acid has shown to increase the rate of hair and nail growth. And speaking from first hand experience here at Go Folic! Get Healthy, we have experienced it ourselves!

So let’s recap… to help prevent any neural tube defects from happening, as well as to expedite your hair & nail growth, a daily multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid, as well as eating folate rich foods help reduce your chances (or grow longer hair)! You can find folate (the form of folic acid once it gets broken down in the body) in food such as dark green vegetables, beans, and fortified cereals. In addition, a few fruits such as, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, oranges and grapefruit juice also are rich in folate.

Well ladies and gent’s (those of you wise guys who want to ensure their girlfriend, wife, sister, cousin, etc. stay healthy) it’s been a pleasure… This is just the start of many more blogs to come. As we continue to blog we will get more in depth of the specifics of folic acid. If there are any specific questions on folic acid please comment and let us know. Also, if there are any topics in particular you want to know more about, we can also take request for blog topicsJ

Until next time, keep folicin’ San Francisco.

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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 Womenshealth.gov 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.


Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News 8.16.13


In this week’s news – more benefits to breastfeeding, the wide use of withdrawal as birth control, post-partum depression among urban women, a new HIV treatment, help for smokers who want to quit, and decreases in the U.S. infertility rate.

One Third of All U.S. Women Uses Withdrawal for Birth Control
If you and a partner have used withdrawal for birth control, you’re not alone.  A new study found that up to 1/3 of sexually active U.S. women between the ages of 15-24 has done so.  While withdrawal can be almost as effective as condoms for pregnancy prevention when used perfectly, it is a very difficult method to use, resulting in a failure rate of 30%.  While many women use withdrawal when they cannot afford more effective hormonal methods of birth control, this will hopefully become less common since the Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance plans cover contraception with no co-pay.  If you are using withdrawal, it is very important to take a daily vitamin with folic acid in case you do get pregnant (see the Go Folic! website). Click here to learn more about the study.

New Moms – Breastfeeding May Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer!
A new analysis published in this month’s Journal of Clinical Nursing found that breastfeeding for more than six months may safeguard nonsmoking mothers against breast cancer. The same does not seem to hold true for smoking mothers, though. These findings add to the list of benefits of breastfeeding for women and their babies. Click here to learn more.

Urban Moms at Greater Risk for Post-Partum Depression
A new Canadian study found that that women living in urban centers with more than 500,000 inhabitants were at higher risk of postpartum depression than women in other areas. Postpartum depression is a serious health concern for women and their children and women who lack of social support and/or have a history of depression are at greater risk.  To learn more about the study, click here.

Thinking of Becoming an Ex-Smoker? Meditation May Help
One of the first actions doctors recommend to a woman smoker who wants to get pregnant is to quit smoking. But that can be easier said than done. A small study conducted by the University of Oregon’s department of psychology found that learning a particular type of meditation technique might make it easier for smokers to cut down, at least on a short-term basis. Mindfulness meditation is designed to help people to relax, focus on the current moment and, essentially, go with the flow of thoughts and sensations. Click here to learn more.

Good News for Would-Be Parents – U.S. Fertily Rate is Decreasing!
A couple is considered to be infertile if they have been having unprotected vaginal intercourse for 12 months in a row without experiencing a pregnancy. According to the National Health Statistics Report, the rate of infertility among U.S. couples, ages 15-44 declined between 1982 and 2010, from 8.5% to 6.0%. Click here to download the full report (PDF).

New HIV Drug Just Approved
On August 12, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Tivicay (dolutegravir), a new drug to treat HIV-1 infection. It can be used to treat HIV-infected adults who have never taken HIV therapy (treatment-naïve) and HIV-infected adults who have previously taken HIV therapy (treatment-experienced). The drug is also approved the drug for children ages 12 years and older weighing at least 40 kilograms. Visit the FDA website to learn more.

Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News 8.2.13


Our top story this week involves the number of young people who report experiencing dating violence – more than 1/3 of U.S. teens and young adults, according to a new study from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, California.

one in three youth have experienced dating violenceSurvey Finds that 1 in 3 Young Americans Has Suffered Dating Violence
More than one-third of U.S. teens and young adults say they’ve suffered abuse during dating and about one-third say they’ve been perpetrators of abuse, new research finds. About one-quarter say they’ve been both an abuser and a victim.  These are the results of a new survey conducted by researcher, Michele Ybarra at the Center for Innovative Public Health Research.  She and her colleagues surveyed 1,058 young people, ages14 to 20. Intimate partner violence is associated with poor school performance, poor self-esteem, depression and thoughts of suicide.  It also increases the risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections through reproductive coercion (partner messing with your birth control or pressuring you to get pregnant or have unprotected sex).

plastic water bottles are among the products that contain BPATrying to Get Pregnant?  Avoid BPA, a Chemical in Plastics
A Harvard study reported this week that Bisphenol-A, or BPA, a common chemical in plastics, may hurt fertility. BPA, which is often found in products like water bottles  and food storage containers, has previously been in the headlines  due to concerns  over its long-term safety.  However, this is the first study to look at how it harms human ova (eggs), the female sex cell.  Researchers fround that exposure to BPA caused  a decrease in the percentage of eggs that matured, an increase in the percentage of eggs that degenerated,  and an increase in the number of eggs  that went through spontaneous activation —  when an egg acts like it’s been fertilized,  but it hasn’t been.  To learn more about the study, click here.

don't get a tattoo over a mole or birth mark as this may make it harder to detect a beginning skin cancerTattoos Can Hide Malignant Melanomas, Experts Say
While not exactly reproductive health news, enough of us on the Go Folic! staff have tattoes that we wanted to share this study. Our most important take-away? When choosing where to put a tattoe, avoid moles and birthmarks – the ink in tattoes can make it difficult to see changes that could be a sign of skin cancer. Read the whole study here.

Weekly Round-Up: Women’s Health News 7.26.13


This was another week full of women’s health news. If you see that we’ve missed something, please post a comment or email it to us and we will publish an addendum!

New standards for STIs screening and treatment in TeensYouth and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) As reported by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Linda Carmine of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and her colleagues provided updates on the diagnosis and management of sexually transmitted infections in adolescents and young adults, “with an emphasis on ‘what’s new’ in the field.”  The review was published in the 6/17 issue of the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent GynecologyClick here to read a summary of the findings.

Does your reproductive health provider ask you about your stresses?Does your family planning provider ask you about the stresses in your life? A study published in the June issue of the journal, Contraception, found that, in young women who experience depression or elevated stress are less likely to consistently use hormonal contraceptive methods like the pill.  The researchers recommend that health providers address clients’ psychological and emotional status when helping them make decisions about birth control methods. Click here to read the study abstract.

What if barbie dolls looked more real than this>Barbie and Body Image – What if Barbie looked like a normal woman? It’s not exactly news that few women, if any, look like Barbie in real life.  It’s also not news that Barbie is not the best tool for encouraging healthy body image among little girls.  But what would happen if Mattel(T) modified Barbie, giving her more realistic body proportions?   One enterprising artist decided to see. Would we like her better? Would she be better for little girls’ self-esteem?  We’ll let you be the judge!  Click here to see a blonde Barbie’s before and after picture (on Upworthy)!

7 of 10 women in u.s. seek reproductive health services every year7 of 10 Women Use Reproductive Health Services A new report from the Guttmacher Institute found that 70% of U.S. women of reproductive age make at least one medical visit for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services each year. Uninsured women are significantly less likely than either privately or Medicaid-insured women to receive SRH services. Our hope is that the provisions for women’s preventive care included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare), will make a difference for uninsured women who are currently going without.  To read the report, click here.  To learn more about ACA requirements for women’s health care, click here.

the HPV vaccine may protect against throat cancerGet Vaccinated, Prevent Throat Cancer? A new study suggests that young women who are vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) not only protect themselves from cervical cancer, but from throat cancer as well.  HPV is responsible for up to 70 percent of oral cancers, so getting the vaccine is an important step towards keeping your throat healthy!  Click here to read more about the study.