Neutral Tube Defects :: Monash University doctor awarded prestigious national fellowship

Increasing folate supplementation to reduce neural tube defects through improved pre-conception care is the goal of Associate Professor Danielle Mazza who has just received a Fellowship co-sponsored by the National Institute of Clinical Studies and the Health and Medical Research Foundation of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia.

Associate Professor Mazza will use the NICS-HCF Foundation Fellowship to undertake a two-year implementation project that aims to address a gap between evidence and practice relating to the role of folate supplementation.

She will work with general practitioners to increase the number of women taking folate during the periconceptual period so that the incidence of neutral tube defects is reduced.

Neural tube defects (NTD) such as spina bifida occur at a prevalence of 1.4 per 1,000 births, with the incidence in Indigenous infants almost double that of non-Indigenous infants. Less than 40 per cent of babies affected with neural tube defects survive to birth and those with spina bifida experience lifelong disability.

?Despite good evidence that adequate intake of folate in the periconceptual period (one month prior and during the first three months of pregnancy) can prevent 70 per cent of NTD cases, many women of childbearing age are unaware of this association and fail to use folate supplements.? explained Associate Professor Mazza.

?In Victoria, only 30 per cent of women are aware that taking folate can reduce the incidence of NTD and national figures are no better. The key lies with education, but according to recent studies, many GPs and other health providers are not adequately promoting folate supplementation to women of child-bearing age, even when they?re aware of their intention to conceive,? she added.

Associate Professor Mazza?s NICS-HCF Foundation Fellowship will aim to work with both GPs and their patients. She will encourage GPs and their practices to promote the need for pre-pregnancy consultations to women and she will also develop patient-focussed education material, in consultation with consumers.

?As Australia?s national agency for closing gaps in health care, NICS is delighted to award this Fellowship to Associate Professor Mazza,? said NICS Chief Executive Officer, Dr Heather Buchan.

?Through the generous support of the HCF Health and Medical Research Foundation, this work will make an important contribution to the prevention of neural tube defects in newborn babies.?


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