On December 8, 1998, the Kentucky Work Group on Folic Acid Awareness and Education met for the first time. Dr. Steve Davis, Director, Division of Adult and Child Health, Department for Public Health led the meeting. The purpose of the initial meeting was to bring together representatives from statewide physician groups and other agency representatives interested in the health of women and children. The participants explored what the various organizations were doing in the area of folic acid education and identified other prospective participants to invite into membership.
Shortly after the initial Work Group meeting, the National Council on Folic Acid launched its education campaign with a Folic Acid National Campaign kickoff meeting in Washington, DC in January 1999. Representatives from the Greater Kentucky Chapter of the March of Dimes, the Kentucky Department for Public Health, and the Barren River District Health Department attended and met each other in Washington. The national kickoff meeting provided valuable information and resources for states to use to establish folic acid promotional campaigns. After the national meeting a Kentucky Folic Acid Education and Awareness Work Group Development Committee was formed to work on identifying additional participants, define the target audience, develop a campaign plan, plan a campaign kickoff, and identify costs and funding sources for the campaign.
During the August 5, 1999 meeting, the Work Group officially adopted the name “Kentucky Folic Acid Partnership”. The Partnership members voted to approve the work plans that the Development Committee had drafted. Also, one of the members, Holly Turney from the advertising agency Red7e, presented the logo that she had produced for the Partnership.
As the Kentucky Folic Acid Partnership was forming, March of Dimes and the Kentucky Department for Public Health were very committed to the folic acid campaign and together funded a part-time State Folic Acid Campaign Coordinator position. Susan Brown, RN from the Barren River District Health Department became the Coordinator on August 30, 1999.
The Partnership continues to meet three times per year, and the members develop, implement and evaluate activity plans annually. Because of the distance between members around the state, much of the Partnership’s ongoing communication and business is accomplished through email.
At the January 22, 2004 meeting, the Kentucky Folic Acid Partnership voted to expand its focus in order to include other selected perinatal health issues. The decision was made because the incidence of prematurity was on the rise, the Partnership members shared a common interest in the health of women and children, and the structure of the Partnership was ideal for addressing prematurity and other emerging perinatal issues. So, in June 2004 the subtitle “…Promoting perinatal health” was added to the name and logo, and activities to target prematurity were included in the annual plans.
Initially the Kentucky Folic Acid Partnership met quarterly, and a Development Committee met between the Partnership meetings to develop activity plans, plan the Partnership meetings, and act as a steering committee to get the Partnership running smoothly. Now the Kentucky Folic Acid Partnership provides leadership and action for the statewide folic acid campaign. A part time State Folic Acid Campaign Coordinator ensures that the folic acid education and awareness campaign is implemented for Kentucky. The Division of Adult and Child Health of the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the March of Dimes provide major support for the campaign, and the Development Committee no longer exists.
Based upon information received at the Folic Acid National Campaign kickoff meeting, the Partnership decided on three approaches for increasing folic acid awareness. The three approaches are community action, mass media, and health professional education. There are three committees to address the approaches. Each committee develops plans and assures that planned activities are completed. Each Partnership member joins at least one committee. Members of the Partnership are asked to provide in-kind education and awareness activities that will result in behavior change.
The Kentucky Folic Acid Partnership has been working to improve perinatal health since 1998. Although nearly every state in the United States has implemented a Folic Acid Coalition at that time, after 10 years Kentucky is one of the few states who have managed to keep their partnership intact and healthy. During this time, the mission of the KFAP has expanded to include additional perinatal health issues, such as prematurity prevention. Folic Acid use remains a top priority of the partnership because not only does it prevent neural tube defects, it is also linked to decreasing the risk to mothers of miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm births. Fitting these two priorities together as one focal point has helped us reach larger populations of women with the evidence-based facts that improve outcomes for the mothers and babies in Kentucky. One of the many accomplishments of the KFAP includes participation in the planning, development, and implementation of the Healthy Babies Are Worth The Wait Community Toolkit, which may become a national model for prematurity prevention initiatives in local communities. [It is available for download on the KFAP website].