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National Folate Awareness Day Wed August 29 2001

New Zealand CCS Media Release – Immediate Release

Wednesday August 29 2001

Spread the word - save lives

Independent research released today shows that only 40 percent of New Zealand women know that the B group vitamin folate can reduce the risk of babies being born with a fatal or significant disability.

The research was conducted as part of New Zealand CCS Folate Awareness Day, which is tomorrow – Wednesday, 29 August – and will be launched by the Minister of Health, Annette King.

“The immense frustration at the lack of knowledge of folate’s role is building momentum,” says National President of disability organisation New Zealand CCS, Lyall Thurston.

Adding heat to the lobby this year are the country’s foremost organisations related to health, women, children and family issues – New Zealand Medical Association, New Zealand Family Planning Association, New Zealand College of Midwives, Plunket Society, Paediatric Society of NZ, and National Council of Women of NZ.

“International research proved 10 years ago and continues to confirm that women taking folate before and after pregnancy may reduce the risk of their having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida by as much as 70 percent,” he said.

“And yet, less than half of women still have no idea of the significance of this B-group vitamin.”

The research involved 345 women between 18 and 49 years in 15 New Zealand cities. While it showed that 276 women (81 percent) had heard of folate or folic acid, only 138 women (50 percent) of those were aware that folate was necessary to reduce the incidence of NTDs in foetal development. Only 40 percent of all of the women interviewed knew of the relationship between folate and birth defects.

Awareness was lower in the 18-25 age group, the younger single women and older women without children at home. Awareness declined with socio-economic status.

“These are shocking statistics – particularly when New Zealand babies continue to be born with fatal or significant physical disabilities, most of which could have been avoided,” said Mr Thurston.

The most common neural tube defects are anencephaly – when the brain fails to develop, and spina bifida – incomplete formation of the spine. Ninety-five percent of babies born with spina bifida also have hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain).

Folate promotes general health, particularly cell growth and development. There is also continuing research into the role of folate in decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disorders in particular, and also other conditions including cancers, stroke and Alzheimers Disease, said Mr Thurston.

Good sources of folate are leafy green vegetables, breakfast cereals with added folate, orange juice, eggs, kiwifruit, and some breads. It is also available as folic acid in a supplement. Sponsoring the campaign are folate-rich food manufacturers and marketers, Kellogg’s, Sure As Eggs Marketing Ltd, Citrus Tree, and ZESRPI International, also promoting the general benefits of a balanced, healthy diet.

The New Zealand CCS Folate Awareness Day campaign slogan is “2, 4, 6, 8 Folate!”
“Two stands for the fact that most women of child bearing age average about 200mcgs of folate daily in their regular diets. Four represents the 400mcgs of folate they should eat daily during their child bearing years.

“Six is for the six letters in F. O. L. A. T. E. Eight is for eight foods that are a good source of folate – breakfast cereals with added folate, orange juice, kiwifruit, eggs, green vegetables, wholegrain breads, legumes, avocado,” he said.

New Zealand CCS is a major non-profit and non-Government organisation established in 1935 that provides services for people with disabilities and their families.
- Ends -

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