Folic Acid Community Ambassadors - Leaders in Your Community

Steffie Duginske, Western Regional Coordinator

Most women take a daily multivitamin with folic acid, right?  Most women know why they need to take a daily multivitamin with folic acid, right?  Actually, the answer is no.  Current data shows that nationally, nearly two-thirds of women do not take a daily multivitamin for several reasons including they forget, they don’t like swallowing the pills, their stomach feels upset after taking them, or they just didn’t know they needed to. 

So why do women need to take a daily multivitamin? 

Each year in North Carolina, there are approximately 150-200 identified cases of neural tube birth defects (NTD), including spina bifida and anencephaly. The vast majority of these birth defects are preventable. If all women of childbearing age took a multivitamin with folic acid every day, up to 70% of NTDs could be prevented.  NTDs occur very early in pregnancy.  Getting this information to young people so they can adapt this simple behavior change can really have an impact on NTDs before pregnancy.

Through the NC Preconception Health Campaign, regional coordinators provide education and resources including bottles of multivitamins to providers throughout the state to pass along this very important message to their patients and clients.  We also realize however, many young women, especially adolescents, may prefer to receive this information directly from their peers. As a result, the Campaign (NCPHC) has developed a Folic Acid Community Ambassador program (FACA) to encourage youth leaders to transmit the message of folic acid supplementation to their peers.

Folic Acid Community Ambassador Program – Making an Impact

From 2013-2014, NCPHC trained over 40 FACAs, who in turn trained nearly 3,000 peers.  One of the key lessons learned of this model is getting this message to youth in a variety of venues using widely accepted peer teaching and peer learning strategies. While some students use the stipend for personal needs, some FACA groups have consolidated their money to support other community programs within their counties. By offering this program to colleges, high schools, and other youth-serving community programs, NCPHC has been able to introduce additional education and resources about other preconception health topics of importance. 

Appalachian State University Dietetics Association

Appalachian State University (ASU) Student Dietetics Association –
Highlighting Successes in the Western Region

ASU Student Dietetics Association has had a very long standing collaboration with the NC Preconception Health Campaign for several years.  In the past two years, this group has taught 39 different classes and reached a total of 603 individuals.  Aside from these students becoming trained Folic Acid Community Ambassadors and reaching so many in the Watauga County area, there is, however, something else that also makes this group especially unique.  Rather than each participating ASU FACA receiving  individual stipends for the trainings they conduct, each year, these students pool all of the money earned and donate it back to their club to spend on outreach efforts in their community. 

“This year, the money will go to a project called CHEAP, Cooking Healthy for Everyone Away from Parents. This project's goal is to teach college students not only how to cook, but how to cook in a healthy, efficient, and money saving way. This program consist of cooking classes at a local non-profit organization called FARM Cafe, Feed All Regardless of Means, geared for college students that are wanting to learn basic cooking skills.  The ASU Dietetics students are going to be leading these classes, while also sharing with students our knowledge of healthy cooking and eating,” says Hanna Caudill, 2015 ASU Student Dietetics Association President. 

“In addition, the money we receive from giving folic acid presentations will always be used to supply snacks and presentation supplies for our club that presents nutrition information to the elderly at the local senior center. In this committee, we give nutrition presentations, to further knowledge, and also help with preparation in the senior center kitchen, to serve our community as well as improve ourselves. This club is called EMMA, “Eat Better, Move More, Age Well”. 

Lastly, the money will help support their work with elementary school children through our Hardin Park Elementary After-School program. The goals of the ASDA committee at Hardin Park Elementary school are to educate the children on various nutrition topics so that they can take what they learn and provide a positive influence at home.  The lessons usually consist of a short lecture of the topic at hand, and a visual prop of some sort.  Some of the money earned through the FACA program will help pay for the hands on portion which usually consists of food. All in all, this committee provides a basic introduction and practice into the world of community nutrition.

There are many “perks” to becoming a trained Folic Acid Community Ambassador.  ASU Dietetics Association has been creative and community focused by using funding resources to better improve the health of their community. Almost any college student could use some extra cash so students designating their stipends in this way is commendable. 

Help identify potential leaders within community groups to recruit FACAs

There are so many potential leaders within reach in your community.  Please help pass this opportunity along to other groups in your community by contacting the Regional Coordinator in your area. 

Steffie Duginske, Western Region:

Brenda Stubbs, Triad Region:

Michaela Penix, Eastern Region:

Kweli Rashied Henry, Statewide:

For more information on folic acid before pregnancy, please visit the March of Dimes website,



Revised: April 23, 2015

This web site is designed for informational use only; it is not designed to give advice, diagnose, cure or treat any medical condition you may have. If you have any questions about your health, please contact your health care provider.