Nutrition Folate Task Team
A global nutrition Task Team for the control of folate insufficiency and folic acid responsive neural tube defects.
The work of the Folate Task Team is being supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Through Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM)’s Folate Task Team project, Nutrition International is helping to lay the groundwork for implementing a global strategy for the control of folate insufficiency and prevention of related neural tube defects.
Maternal folate insufficiency in the first 28 days of pregnancy is a major cause of neural tube defects. The most common forms of these defects include spina bifida and anencephaly, which are important causes of elective pregnancy terminations, stillbirths, early neonatal deaths, or long-term disabilities. Improving maternal folate status through folic acid fortification or supplementation can dramatically reduce the number of affected births and significantly contribute to reducing neonatal and child mortality.
ADVANCING THE ROADMAP FOR ACTION
Supporting a global strategy for folate
A recent technical consultation convened by the Micronutrient Forum – whose Secretariat was hosted by Nutrition International between 2011 – 2017 – led to the development of a Roadmap for Action to advance and accelerate neural tube defects prevention globally. To advance the recommendations featured in this roadmap, Nutrition International has assembled a Folate Task Team, which will coordinate activities for the advancement of the implementation agenda to reduce folate-responsive neural tube defects.
The Folate Task Team is leading an expert advisory group and a core working group, and benefits from the experience and collaboration of selected global partners. Working together, these experts will:
- Facilitate access to the scientific and technical conclusions of the Roadmap for Action and folate-related knowledge products,
- Conduct a landscape analysis to prioritize countries where actions to reduce folate-sensitive neural tube defects are more needed and more likely to show impact,
- Build laboratory capacity in selected number of low and middle income countries to assess folate status, and
- Support research to further inform the activities towards the global action plan.
Folate Microbiologic Assay Training Video
Through a Folate Task Team collaboration with the CDC Foundation, CDC is supporting training and facilitating capacity development to conduct folate microbiologic measurements in multiple international laboratories. Low blood folate concentrations in women of childbearing age increase the risk of neural tube birth defects in their offspring. The folate microbiologic assay will allow countries to assess population folate status. This will have a long-term global health impact by providing countries with the knowledge to identify folate insufficiency, determine appropriate interventions and reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
As part of the collaboration, lab technicians participate in training with CDC and various materials have been developed to assist with training needs. This featured video was created to aid in folate microbiologic assay training.
Webinar – Using laboratory folate status assessment to strengthen NTD prevention
March 3rd is World Birth Defects Day. On March 4th, the Folate Task Team hosted its second webinar to commemorate this important day. Knowing the folate status of women of reproductive age can provide vital information to help guide and evaluate national-level NTD prevention efforts. However, historically there has been limited use and availability of reliable laboratory methods to assess folate status, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
Webinar – Improving child survival at the intersection of nutrition and birth defects
On December 4th, 2018 the Folate Task Team hosted an interactive webinar with renowned global experts in nutrition, birth defects, food fortification, and advocacy. Learn about a transformative global effort to greatly reduce the risk of neural tube defects through improved nutrition.
*Please note that due to some technical difficulties one of our speakers has been added after the closing remarks of the webinar.
Featured Publications and Resources
- NEW – Knowledge Brief – Laboratory capacity building for folate assessment to strengthen NTD prevention
- Lack of historical evidence to support folic acid exacerbation of the neuropathy caused by vitamin B12 deficiency by Robert J Berry
- Knowledge Brief – Supply chain analyses to assess the feasibility of national food fortification programs
- Advocacy Brief – The importance of folic acid food fortification to prevent neural tube defects
- Knowledge Brief – Improving Folate Status in Women of Reproductive Age to Prevent Neural Tube Defects
- Roadmap for Action
- The Spina Bifida Association has released Guidelines for the Care of People with Spina Bifida. The Guidelines were developed to provide every healthcare professional– from generalists to specialists– a roadmap of the best evidence-based and expert treatment available from birth through adulthood.
Articles Featured in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Special Issue: Folate Status in Women and Neural Tube Defect Risk Reduction
- Improving maternal folate status to prevent infant neural tube defects: working group conclusions and a framework for action
- Historical perspectives on folic acid and challenges in estimating global prevalence of neural tube defects
- Estimates of global and regional prevalence of neural tube defects for 2015: a systematic analysis
- A public health approach for preventing neural tube defects: folic acid fortification and beyond
- Safety of folic acid
- The investment case for folic acid fortification in developing countries
- Folate status in women of reproductive age as basis of neural tube defect risk assessment
- Framework for laboratory harmonization of folate measurements in low- and middle-income countries and regions
- Should vitamin B12 status be considered in assessing risk of neural tube defects?
- Triple surveillance: a proposal for an integrated strategy to support and accelerate birth defect prevention
Previously Featured Publications and Resources
- Blog: Measuring the prevalence of neural tube defects: Why global surveillance needs improvement now – by Vijaya Kancherla, Emory University
- Scorecard for spina bifida research, prevention, and policy: Score analysis by Human Development Index and WHO region – by Vijaya Kancherla, Aliki Weakland, Sunny Xu, Salimah Walani
- Large-Scale Food Fortification and Biofortification in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Review of Programs, Trends, Challenges, and Evidence Gaps
- Considerations for Studying Folate Beyond the Typical Range of Exposure
- Describing the prevalence of neural tube defects worldwide: A systematic literature review
- Estimates of global and regional prevalence of neural tube defects for 2015: a systematic analysis
- Large-Scale Food Fortification: An Overview of Trends and Challenges in Low-and Middle-Income Countries in 2017
- PUSH! Global Report Card Scoring Criteria & All Recommendations for Each of the Indicators
- The #FutureFortified Global Summit on Food Fortification Event Proceedings and Recommendations for Food Fortification Programs
- The Arusha Statement on Food Fortification
- Total prevention of folic acid-preventable spina bifida and anencephaly would reduce child mortality in India: Implications in achieving Target 3.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals
- October 25 is World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day
- March 3 was World Birth Defects Day, proudly supported by Nutrition International
- On March 4, the Folate Task Team hosted its second webinar – Using laboratory folate status assessment to strengthen NTD prevention
- On December 4, 2018, the Folate Task Team hosted an interactive webinar with renowned global experts in nutrition, birth defects, food fortification, and advocacy
- The XVIII Congreso Latinoamericano de Nutrición was held from November 11-15, 2018 in Guadalajara, Mexico. A symposium co-organized by Nutrition International, the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented conclusions from expert committee meetings for three recent consultations, focused on folate deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, and thiamine deficiency.
- On October 30, 2018 the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science hosted a webinar at the New York Academy of Sciences: Addressing Folate, Thiamine, and Vitamin D Deficiencies Globally
- On World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day 2018, Joy Kiruntimi, Nutrition International’s Deputy Country Director Kenya, spoke at the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association workshop Neuro Care for Life, in Nairobi, to commemorate the day
- The first-ever Global Disability Summit was held on July 24, 2018 in London, England.
- Technical Consultation on Folate Status in Women and NTD Prevention, convened by the Micronutrient Forum, took place in Ottawa, Canada, April 2017.
- 8th International Conference on Birth Defects and Disabilities in the Developing World took place in Bogota, Colombia, Nov. 2017. View presentations.
A global project, supported by global experts
NTEAM’s folate task team gratefully acknowledges the active guidance and contribution of expertise of the following global partners:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities through their Birth Defects COUNT global initiative
- March of Dimes
- Push! Global Alliance
- WHO Nutrition Department
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The folate task team is seeking global partners interested in collaborating on this important initiative for the prevention of folate deficiency and neural tube defects.
Through NTEAM, Nutrition International shares its expertise globally to support the scale-up of nutrition for the most vulnerable. We believe that knowledge, rigorously obtained and generously shared, is key to effective progress for nutrition. NTEAM convenes global experts to tackle key nutrition issues and encourages broad use of knowledge by translating technical information and research into accessible guidance, tools and resources. We also work with countries and agencies, sharing expertise through timely and coordinated technical assistance.