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

Go Folic! On Vacation


The GO FOLIC! Web Team will be on vacation through September 30, 2012.  However, women living in San Francisco  can still get free Go Folic! Multivitamins – click here to find out how.  Also, while we won’t be blogging, you can still follow us on Twitter @gofolic to get news about new research findings in women’s health.

Even though we won’t be blogging, we’ll be busy behind the scenes.  When we come back, on October 1, we’ll have a whole new look, new regular blog columnists and columns, and an updated Facebook page. Also, we’ll have an expanded focus on all of women’s preventive health.

Thoughts and Reflections of an Intern: Why Public Health is Important


Go Folic! Intern, Sharonya Shrivastava

The end is near.

It is the end of another semester of the college experience, another school year, my time as a lowerclassman and my time as a younger Berkeley student.

As finals fast approach, I look inward and think to myself, what have I learned over the course of the past semester? Has the knowledge I have accumulated been put to use and then simply discarded, or have I retained enough to pull through these last couple of weeks with accomplishment? These reflections are crucial, not just to the successful completion of my semester, but for life in general.

Mark Twain once said, “I’ve never let my school interfere with my education.” Though I don’t completely agree with the sentiment, I do think sometimes learning in school must be separated from knowledge through experiences, surroundings and life in general.

So what have I learned during these past 12 or so weeks that has strengthened my teenage wisdom? Well, enough to know that change affects in the deepest of ways, but is an important experience. With new experiences come new realizations, and I had quite a few epiphanies of this kindthis semester. Many ideas were affirmed me, and at the same time, I was made aware of things I didn’t realize I didn’t know.

  • The fact that life is all about balance. Affirmed.
  • Time management is key for task completion. Affirmed.
  • But first impressions can change in the most dramatic of ways? Unbelievable, even to this day. I was made aware of limits I didn’t realize existed, and capabilities I never knew I could reach.

If I could talk about any particular aspect of my education at length, it would have to be the public health information I have learned this semester. In almost a four month time period, I feel as if my public health knowledge has vastly expanded, and I have gained more of an understanding of public health as an idea, a mission, and a goal, rather than as just another occupation on the job market.

I learned absolutely everything revolves around information, a point that attending school for the past 16 years still had not driven home. This is why change is so crucial, because it spurs new ideas, fresh perspectives and a whole new outlook on life and its possibilities. I feel I gained this, and more, during my time spent as an intern for the Go Folic! Nutrition Project.

One of the most important aspects that came to my attention was that the resources for the health and well being of people are out there. There are so many organizations and groups established, dedicated to helping people and doing good deeds in the community, and all it takes is for people to know of their existence. Though some may be small, they are strong, in their causes and the aid they provide. 

I have no doubt in my mind that people can gain the greatest help or insight from a simple nutrition project, or a school health center, because each individual organization is so important and powerful in the grand scheme of health and human life. I know I often take for granted and accept the status of my life, but I, and hopefully people in general, will keep reminding themselves that help and support is always there whenever its needed, whether it is in the form of family, friends or organizations such as these.

This is why public health is so important. It is a field that teaches compassion, critical thinking, awareness and acceptance. It advocates simple but powerful ideas, such as solving a problem by going back to the source, gathering information and research to gain ideas and teaching awareness to promote understanding.

Public health is so important to me, now more than ever, because it has affirmed and supported my desire to pursue medicine, something that I have been questioning and grappling with my reasons for some time. But on top of that, I have come to the conclusion that public health is the perfect complement (and basis) to the medical career, and at this moment in time, I would like to pursue both in the future because of my experiences up until today. Medicine provides knowledge about the underlying issues of public health problems, while public health seeks to provide a broader outlook on health beyond the individual, specialized interactions, and together, with all the awareness and information each field provides, the possibilities for change can only be beneficial.

I am so thankful for the people I have met, the experiences I have had, and the ideas I have learned. I will continue to be inspired and motivated by the great work being accomplished in the health field, medicine and public health alike. I hope that one day, I too can have such an impact on the people and world around me as all this has had on myself as an individual.

School, health, education, awareness, realization and change. A new beginning is just around the corner.

This blog post was written by Sharonya Shrivastava.

Thank you so much for reading my blogs this semester! I wish the best of luck to the Go Folic! Nutrition Project and to all future interns who will get the chance to work and blog for this wonderful organization!

An Ekphrasis


An Ekphrasis

How can the quality of life be evaluated? By the degree one has earned? By the money one makes? In the hustle and bustle of today’s society, people strive for excellence, to be at the top of hierarchy in a sea full of competitors. Yet one aspect of life often forsaken is simplicity. The simple tranquil life, of diligence and good old hard labor, is so understated in the society of today, one that yearns be faster and faster as we put in energy to keep up with the times, the trends and the technology.
We are so swept up in getting to where we need to go and to what we need to do, that we leave the most valuable ideas behind, especially that of taking care of others. We should not race through our life paths without a trace, we should pave the way, and leave our mark wherever life takes us. This goes hand in hand with simplicity, in that it is the simple nature of caring for another that fulfills us and provides us joy and stability.
And this brings me to health. Health is all about caring, watching out for another or one’s own well-being. This is what Go Folic! does, as well as the endless amount of health projects and organizations out there: they simply care. Shouldn’t this act of caring and simplicity be enough to fulfill people and give them life-long happiness? Because it definitely would for me.

This post was written by Sharonya Shrivastava, and is part of a blog series for the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge.

Resolutions for the Keeping

ImageWith the recent Chinese New Year celebrations, it is not too late to check up on those New Year’s resolutions initially established, as well as fashion some new ones because it is only just the beginning, and it’s never too late to make some changes in one’s life. But, with the making of these resolutions comes the problem of keeping them. Often times, resolutions are too big and too ambitious to be maintained, and therefore fall through, only to be revived yet again at the same time next year. From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, are some guidelines for making resolutions, so you can better follow the goals that you set for yourself:

1. Instead of coming up with a broad resolution, such as, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get physically active,” come up with a more specific goal, such as “I’m going to jog each morning” or “I will workout for 30 minutes each day.”

2.  Focus on one resolution that can be successfully achieved, instead of having multiple tasks going on that you want to complete.

3. Make a list to remind yourself of what you need to do each day to accomplish your goals.

4. Once you set your specific resolution of choice, start taking steps towards achieving the goal right away! Whether it be leaving your computer and going for a stroll or planning a healthy next meal, action without delay is key!

ImageNeed a resolution to begin with? Never fear, here are some general and popular resolutions that you can make your own, and strive to achieve depending on your lifestyle, taken from Health.com:

1. Lose weight

A common resolution throughout this country, but very achievable if you have a plan. Keep a journal of what you eat and how much you exercise daily, it will help you keep up and stick to your goals!

2. Stay in touch

Rekindle old friendships and catch up with friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while. All the social resources are out there, especially Facebook, and the more friends you make, the better, because they will only make your life even happier and more exciting.

3. Save money

Spend only when you need to, and buy only what you will use. Try to set limits on your spending each week/month depending on your tendencies.

4. Cut your stress

Lighten the load and learn to say “no” to things that you don’t have to absolutely do. Take breaks throughout the day, walk around and listen to music to keep your mood relaxed and your mind focused.

5. Volunteer

Pour some time and energy into a cause you care about, whether it is the local animal shelter or soup kitchen. Helping out another in need gives great feelings of happiness and positivity, which are good for the mind and soul.

6. Get more sleep

A full dose of shut-eye is essentially your way to reboot daily. Getting in more sleep, whether it be sleeping earlier or taking naps during the day, is very beneficial for the wellbeing and strength of the brain and mind.

I hope these tips help you make and keep your resolutions in the New Year. And if you aren’t one to make resolutions, these can just be suggestions for having a healthy and happy life in general. Enjoy!


Go Folic! Wecomes Sharonya Shrivastava

Hello everyone! My name is Sharonya Shrivastava, and I am excited to be the new Family Planning Intern for the San Francisco Department of Public Health Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Section! During this spring semester, I will be utilizing social networking websites to increase awareness of the Go Folic! Women’s Nutrition Project and blog, as well as conduct outreach for the project and MCAH programs in the community.

I am from Granite Bay, CA, a suburban town a half an hour northeast ofSacramento, CA, but am currently residing in Berkeley, CA. I am a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, intending to major in Integrative Biology.

I am also on the pre-medical track, but of late have been delving into the public health sector of the health field. As far as past health experience goes, I have been a participating member of the American Diabetes Association’s Walk for Diabetes, and have raised funds and awareness towards the organization and research into diabetes treatment and prevention.

I have also interned at Roseville Internal Medicine, a private practice in my hometown, where I was able to observe front desk and office interactions as well as manage patient files and other office paperwork. I am eager to begin working as a Family Planning Intern because I will finally get the chance to be involved directly in the public health sector through this organization!

I am looking forward to blogging for the Go Folic! Women’s Nutrition Project because I enjoy this style of writing and method of communication. Over the summer, I was a Featured Blogger for YouthNoise (just merged with mobilize.org), a social media website in which young people blog about various issues or ideas of interest and reach other youth their age.

This was a wonderful experience, because I was essentially given an open space to blog about one of my passions: the environment. Through the blog, I was able to reach others, both young and old, who shared my very same interests. In this way, I learned a lot about the field I was writing about through my research for each biweekly blog.

I hope to gain knowledge and resources in the same way from this internship, so I will build skills to speak confidently about this particular health issue as well as learn more about it from Go Folic! clients and supporters.  I cannot wait to get started!

Meet Kate O’Donnell

Go Folic! welcomes Kate O’Donnell to our team.

Kate with her pit bull, Peaches

Kate with her pit bull, Peaches

Kate is currently a first year Master’s of Public Health student at Columbia University in New York City, studying maternal and adolescent health.  Before going back to school, Kate was the Program Coordinator at the Josiah Hill III Clinic, a community based nonprofit in Portland, OR that works to promote community action for healthy homes.  Kate also worked for the Community Cycling Center, also in Portland, to empower youth through after school bicycling programs.

Originally from Harrisburg,PA, Kate studied anthropology and political science at the University of Pittsburgh.  She is interested in preconception health – promoting healthy moms and babies – and in finding new ways to help diverse communities access health care.

Kate is so excited to be part of the Go Folic program for the summer!  Over the next couple of months, Kate will be conducting an evaluation of our marketing campaign.  She will also be continuing Go Folic’s online outreach, so look for her posts on Facebook, Twitter, and the Go Folic blog!

When Kate’s not at work with the Go Folic team, you can find her riding her bike or hanging out with her pit bull, Peaches.