Background: In April of 2003, The Micronutrient Initiative, in collaboration with several other organizations, convened a group of knowledgeable scientists and policy experts to discuss ways to accelerate the global pace at which countries implement effective and sustainable programs to prevent folic acid-preventable birth defects and other folate-deficiency diseases. Programs implemented to date by fewer than 40 countries have prevented only 10% of the estimated 240,000 annual cases of folic acid-preventable spina bifida and anencephaly.
Methods: Participants in this meeting summarized and presented scientific evidence showing that increased consumption of synthetic folic acid prevents a large proportion of spina bifida and anencephaly cases. They also reviewed related guidance and endorsement issued by national professional societies and advisory bodies as well as policies and programs implemented by some countries that have already demonstrated successful results in terms of reduced rates of neural tube defects and improved folate nutrition.
Conclusions: The group formulated and discussed recommendations and strategies for increasing the pace of neural tube defect prevention globally. The recommendations and strategies are published here.