About the Preconception Health Campaign
Amy Mullenix, MSW, MSPH, Statewide Coordinator, March of Dimes, 919-781-2481, email@example.com
March of Dimes North Carolina Folic Acid Campaign expands and rebrandsRaleigh, NC, September 19, 2012
The March of Dimes North Carolina Chapter is home to a special health education program that has seen many successes and garnered many accolades. The North Carolina Folic Acid Campaign is a nationally recognized, award-winning campaign created to improve infant and maternal health by promoting the benefits and consumption of folic acid. It was designed to reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects (NTDs) in newborn children by encouraging women of childbearing age to take a multivitamin containing 400 mcg of folic acid every day. The Campaign contributed to a nearly 40 percent decline in NTD prevalence in North Carolina between 1995 and 1996 (9.5 per 10,000 live births) and 2004 and 2005 (6.05 per 10,000 live births). By comparison, the national NTD rate declined by 23-26 percent in the years after fortification of the U.S. food supply beginning in 1998.
However, folic acid supplementation is just one of many ways to improve women’s wellness and birth outcomes. All the interventions that aim to identify and modify biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health or pregnancy outcome through prevention and management are referred to as preconception health. Preconception health emphasizes factors that must be acted on either before conception or early in pregnancy to have the greatest impact.
The North Carolina Folic Acid Campaign made a strategic decision to expand its programs with additional preconception health messages. This decision mirrored that of several state and national agencies to support preconception health programs as they increasingly become priorities for other state and national agencies. While the Campaign still carries the folic acid message in all of its work, it has added new messages and new initiatives under the larger umbrella of preconception health.
The March of Dimes North Carolina Preconception Health Campaign (NCPHC) officially launched in January 2011. The goals of the NCPHC are to reduce infant mortality, birth defects, premature birth, and chronic health conditions in women, while also aiming to increase intended pregnancies in North Carolina. To do this the NCPHC strives to improve women’s wellness, improve reproductive outcomes, and reduce health disparities through a multi-faceted health education campaign.
Some of the NCPHC’s innovative initiatives include:
· The Community Ambassador Program: Regional coordinators train women across the state to be community health educators. These women can help increase awareness and influence attitudes through community venues and personal networks. To reach North Carolina’s growing Latino population, a culturally-modified version of this program is also conducted in Spanish.
· The Office Champion Program: According to research from the March of Dimes and the Gallup Organization, 89 percent of women who do not take vitamins say they would do so upon the recommendation of their health care provider. Acknowledging that heath care providers are powerful motivators for their patients, the Campaign developed a health care provider education initiative that creates a peer point person in physician practices. In addition to folic acid, this program has recently expanded to include other preconception health messages such as healthy weight.
· Latino Campaign: Latina women are almost twice as likely as the general population to have babies born with NTDs. The NCPHC has staff members dedicated to Spanish-language outreach to promote folic acid and has created special programs and advertising in Spanish using culturally relevant messages. In 2011, the NCPHC expanded its Latino outreach to include healthy weight messages.
· Adolescent Health Curriculum: The NCPHC designed a curriculum called “Healthy Before Pregnancy” for school educators to teach high school students about the importance of preconception health. The curriculum aims to increase students’ knowledge of what causes poor birth outcomes, how their current lifestyle can impact future reproductive outcomes, and how to plan for healthy reproductive lives.
· Media and Materials: Using the principles of social marketing, the NCPHC has developed a series of effective campaigns touting the benefits of folic acid and preconception health to the general public.
The March of Dimes North Carolina Chapter is proud to be home to such an active and accomplished health education program. The NCPHC will continue to raise awareness and inspire positive action among the general public, health care professionals and community agencies through a fully integrated educational and media campaign.
For more information about the Campaign or sign up for their newsletter, please visit EveryWomanNC.com. If you would like to join the campaign by volunteering or joining our Executive Committee, or if you would just like more information, please contact Amy Mullenix, MSW, MSPH, Statewide Coordinator, at (919) 781-2481 or firstname.lastname@example.org.