This year, National Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 5-11. Sponsored by the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, observance of this week is especially important for women of childbearing age. When it comes to spreading awareness, community pharmacists have a significant role due to their accessibility and their focus on expanding patient centered care.
But first, let’s explore why folic acid needs its own week of awareness.
Folic acid is an essential B vitamin that is vital for development of new cells, as well as supporting cardiovascular and neural health. A healthy, folate-rich diet is a great way to boost your intake, but most people need to take a multivitamin or additional supplement to get their full daily recommended amount of 400 mcg.
While folic acid aids both men and women’s general growth and development, it is especially crucial for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. It is known to help prevent complications resulting in children being born with Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) and other birth defects.
These birth defects tend to form within the first month of pregnancy – usually before the mother is even aware she is pregnant – and about 50% of pregnancies in the US are not even planned. Due to these factors, health care professionals should be instilling the habit of taking folic acid early on. A simple supplement added to a daily routine can provide protection against devastating complications – but only when taken effectively.
As a community pharmacist, you have the opportunity to incorporate this awareness into your patient care with some actionable tips listed below.
These are a great resource to print and hand out in your pharmacy, in addition to posting on your website and social media. Make it a year-round habit to counsel your patients on additional factors of their health.