Folic acid and prevention of neural tube defects in 2000 improved awareness--low peri-conceptional uptake.Ir Med J 2001; 94(6):180-1IM
Eight years have passed since recommendations were made by the Irish Department of Health on the importance of folic acid in the prevention of neural tube defects (NTD). There is currently no mandatory fortification of foodstuffs with folic acid in Ireland, with reliance placed on campaigns promoting increased dietary folate intake and supplements. We assessed knowledge and use of folic acid among 300 women attending ante-natal clinics in Dublin maternity hospitals in the year 2000 using an interviewer administered questionnaire. Qualitative information was obtained through means of a focus group. Ninety two percent of respondents had heard of folic acid and 67% knew it could prevent NTD. Thirty per cent were advised to take it peri-conceptionally but overall only 18% did so; 39% of women had planned their pregnancy. The focus group indicated that folic acid was not 'visible' enough and that fortification of food was more realistic. This study shows that improved folic acid awareness has not been accompanied by corresponding peri-conceptional uptake in 2000. Folic acid promotional campaigns should be continuous and targeted. Mandatory food fortification should be strongly considered.