October 30, 2003
Outstanding Leadership Awards Presented
Augusta – Five different individuals and organizations were presented today with the second annual Outstanding Leadership Award for their contributions in promoting folic acid awareness in the prevention of birth defects. The recipients were honored at celebratory tea hosted by First Lady Karen Baldacci at the Blaine House as part of the Folic Acid Now Awareness Campaign and Spina Bifida Awareness Month.
Folic Acid is a B vitamin that is found most prominently in dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, beans and peas, as well as certain citrus fruits such as strawberries and oranges. It is also found in peanuts and enriched bread.
Most significantly, scientific research has shown that women of childbearing age who take a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid will significantly reduce the risk of having a baby born with a neural tube defect, which is a birth defect of the spine or brain. Experts have estimated that up to 70% of neural tube defects could be prevented by either consuming a diet high in folic acid or taking a multivitamin containing folic acid prior to pregnancy.
The Outstanding Leadership Awards for Folic Acid Awareness in the Prevention of Birth Defects were awarded to Valeria Peterson, Sharon Martin, Burgess Advertising, WMTW-TV Channel 8 and the University of Maine College of Nursing and Health Professions Promoting Health Babies Partnership.
Valeria Peterson, a maternal-child nurse at Cary Medical Center in Caribou, received her award for developing and implementing a program to educate both providers and the general public about the importance of folic acid. “We were effective in getting the Folic Acid message out to men of all ages, as well as older women,” Ms. Peterson noted. Using grants funds provided by the March of Dimes, her group worked with providers, colleges, high schools, and Native American groups. In particular, her educational efforts targeted elder adults, recognizing that they are also a significant group that can influence women of childbearing age. “They are all somebody’s grandparents,” Ms. Peterson added, “and so they have a personal stake in the campaign against birth defects.”
The Maine Folic Acid Council, a unique partnership between the Department of Human Services, Bureau of Health, health care professionals, the March of Dimes and other private agencies, sponsored today’s event. The council will be spearheading efforts to increase awareness of folic acid as a way to reduce the risk of birth defects. They will also be working closely with the Bureau of Health’s Birth Defects Program, thanks in part to a $15,000 grant from the March of Dimes. The grant will provide education and materials to health care providers on the value of folic acid.
For more information about the Maine Folic Acid Council, please contact Patricia Day, RN at 800-698-3624 or 287-5351.