- a healthy start to life
On average two babies every month
are born with a neural tube defect (NTD) in Northern Ireland,
the most common of these being spina bifida. The Health Promotion
Agency for Northern Ireland today launched a major public
information campaign that highlights the importance of
folic acid in helping to reduce the number of babies born
with a NTD.
Speaking at the launch, Angela
McComb, Nutrition Programme Manager for the Health Promotion
Agency, said: "Research has shown that if a woman increases
her intake of folic acid before conception and during the
first twelve weeks of pregnancy the risk of her child developing
a NTD can be reduced by at least 70%.
"Folic acid is a B vitamin and
is completely safe to take. Women who are pregnant or planning
to become pregnant are recommended to take a 400 microgram
supplement of folic acid. They should also eat more foods
rich in folic acid such as cabbage, peas and parsnips and
look out for breads and breakfast cereals with added folic
acid when they're shopping."
Research conducted by the Health
Promotion Agency showed that while 59% of women had heard
of folic acid many did not know about the benefits of taking
it. The Agency's drive to promote folic acid involves a major
campaign incorporating television and cinema advertising.
Over a quarter of a million copies of a free
magazine, eye-catching posters and leaflets
will also be distributed.
Thanks to the support of major
food retailers and distributors, materials linked to the campaign
will be available through supermarkets as well as a range
of other commercial outlets such as hairdressers and cinemas.
Support for the campaign
has also been given by many pharmacists, primary healthcare
staff and dentists across Northern Ireland.
Professor Nevin, Consultant Clinical
Geneticist, Northern Ireland Regional Genetics Centre, who
helped launch the campaign said: "It is important that all
women who could become pregnant know about the benefits of
folic acid. Many years of hard work have gone into researching
the link between folic acid and neural tube defects. It is
vital that women have access to this information and I very
much welcome this campaign."