October 26, 2001

San Diego - Imperial Division One of Four Pilot Sites for The March of Dimes Hispanic Women's Initiative Project

The March of Dimes San Diego - Imperial Division has been selected as one of four pilot sites in the U.S. for the Hispanic Women's Initiative Project an educational campaign, to educate Hispanic women of childbearing age about the importance of folic acid and early prenatal care. Other pilot sited cities are Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The Hispanic Women's Initiative Project is part of a $10 million campaign which includes television, radio and print public service announcements, distribution of educational materials both in English and in Spanish including brochures, posters, videos; and a prenatal education curriculum called "Comenzando Bien." Participants in the Comenzando Bien classes are provided with information about steps that they can take to help their babies get a healthy start in life.

Research shows that Hispanic women are 40 - 50% more likely of having a baby with a neural tube defect than non-Hispanic white women. Neural tube defects are serious birth defects that cause disability and death. The most common neural tube defects are anencephaly, a fatal condition in which a baby is born with a severely underdeveloped brain and skull, and spina bifida, which is the leading cause of childhood paralysis. Studies show that women who consume the recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before conception and during the first month of pregnancy can reduce the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects by up to 70%.

Since January of this year, the March of Dimes has partnered with Family Health Centers of San Diego to implement the Comenzando Bien curriculum. The program has now expanded to include Casa Familiar, Catholic Charities, Central Region Department of Health, Centro Médico Latino, Comprehensive Health Center, CRASH! Options Program, Council of Community Clinics, Escondido Health Center, Family Health Centers of San Diego, La Maestra Family Clinic, MAAC Project, Neighborhood House Association, North County Health Services, Office of Border Health, Paradise Valley Hospital, Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties, SANDAPP, San Ysidro Health Center, San Ysidro Health Center WIC Agency, Vista Community Clinic and YMCA.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies. More information is available on its Web sites at www.nacersano.org in Spanish and www.mo-dimes.org in English or by calling toll free 1-888-MODIMES to reach Spanish-speaking health information specialists at the March of Dimes Resource Center.

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