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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989


BARBOZA ARGUELLO, María de la Paz  and  UMANA SOLIS, Lila María. Impact of the fortification of food with folic acid on neural tube defects in Costa Rica. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2011, vol.30, n.1, pp.1-6. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: Evaluate the impact of the fortification of food with folic acid on prevalence trends for neural tube defects (NTD) and the infant mortality rate (IMR) associated with this disorder in Costa Rica. METHODS: The surveillance data from the Congenital Disease Registry Center and the Central American Population Center were analyzed. The neural tube defects considered were anencephaly, spina bifida, and encephalocele. The trends from 1987-2009, as well as the differences in prevalence and mortality rates prior to and up to 12 years after food fortification with folic acid, were examined (95% confidence interval [CI]). The contribution of fortification to the decrease in the overall IMR was determined. RESULTS: During 1987-1997, prior to the period of food fortification with folic acid, NTD prevalence was 12/10 000 births (95% CI: 11.1-12.8), whereas in 2009 prevalence was 5.1/10 000 births (3.3-6.5). The IMR associated with NTD was 0.64/1 000 births (46-0.82) in 1997 and 0.19/1 000 births (0.09-9.3) in 2009. There were significant decreases in the IMR associated with NTD and the prevalence of NTD: 71%, and 58%, respectively (P < 0.05). The overall IMR decreased from 14.2/1 000 births in 1997 to 8.84/1 000 births in 2009 (P < 0.05). The decrease in the IMR associated with NTD contributed to an 8.8% decrease in the overall IMR from 1997 to 2009. CONCLUSIONS: Food fortification with folic acid caused a decrease in NTD at birth and the IMR associated with this malformation during the 1997-2009 period. It also led to a decrease in the overall IMR. There is a temporal relationship between the introduction of fortification policies and the decrease in prevalence and mortality associated with NTD. This intervention should be promoted in Latin American and Caribbean countries where it has not yet been implemented.

Keywords : Neural tube defects; folic acid; food, fortified; infant, newborn; infant mortality; maternal health; Costa Rica.

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