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FOR RELEASE: October 12, 2000  
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Folic Acid Can Prevent Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) – Conference to Educate

What can prevent an estimated 50 to 75 percent of all neural tube defects (NTDs)? Every woman of childbearing age who is capable of becoming pregnant should be able to answer that question. Yet, an estimated 2,000 babies are born in the United States with NTDs annually and three to four babies are born in Oklahoma each month with NTDs. Research shows that consuming a simple vitamin with 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid each day can prevent NTDs. Unfortunately, few health care professionals are sharing this important information with their childbearing age patients.

To provide health care professionals with the education they need on NTD prevention, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is participating in a conference on NTD prevention sponsored by the Oklahoma Coalition on Folic Acid through a grant from the March of Dimes. The conference, titled Folic Acid: Make It a Habit, will be Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Myriad Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Speakers include: Godfrey P. Oakley Jr., MD, professor of Epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University; Thomas W. Sadler, PhD, professor of cell biology and anatomy at the University of North Carolina; James Coldwell, MD, chief of pediatrics at Children's Medical Center in Tulsa; Julie Hankins, BSN, RN, NTD prevention coordinator at OSDH; and Karla Damus, RN, PhD, director of community programs and an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women's Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

Topics will cover Embryology, Caring for Children with Spina Bifida, a Scientific Overview of USPHS Folic Acid Recommendations, Folic Acid Sources and Food Fortification Issues, NTD Prevention Activities in Oklahoma, and an Update on the National Folic Acid Initiative.

Nearly 400 physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers and other health care professionals are registered to attend. For general information about NTDs, folic acid and other prevention efforts, call Julie Hankins, BSN, RN, OSDH Maternal & Child Health Services at 405/271-4470.

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