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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI project helps prevent birth defects

KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 27, 2002 -- Every year 11 babies in Rhode Island are born with spina bifida and anencephaly, defects of the brain and spine. Nutritionists at the University of Rhode Island are hoping to reduce this number through the South Providence Folic Acid Project.

The 90-minute educational program teaches women of child bearing age the importance of a diet rich in folic acid. Folic acid, when taken regularly before pregnancy, can reduce the rate of birth defects of this kind by 70 percent. This B vitamin is found in leafy green vegetables, orange juice, beans, fortified cereals, and multi-vitamins.

The class is taught by URI students and peer health educators from the Genesis Center in South Providence schools, community centers, health centers, and rehabilitation centers. "The South Providence area was chosen because of its multi-ethnic neighborhoods and many social service agencies," said Donna Lavallee, program supervisor.

This interactive class involves cooking and sampling foods high in folic acid and encourages women and men to attend. "We recognize the great influence men can have on the food choices their partners make," said Lavallee. "Educating both sexes is beneficial."

The program receives its funding through the Rhode Island chapter of the March of Dimes. Grant funding for this project ends December 31, however, URI peer nutrition counselors will continue to teach classes around the state in 2003. Classes are offered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. For more information or to sign a group up, call Donna Lavallee at 277-5270.

For Information: Todd McLeish 874-2116, Nicole Duguay 874-2116

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