viernes, 4 de mayo de 2012

CDC - Blogs - CDC Works For You 24/7 – J. David Erickson: Involved from the Start in the Folic Acid Success Story

CDC - Blogs - CDC Works For You 24/7 – J. David Erickson: Involved from the Start in the Folic Acid Success Story

J. David Erickson: Involved from the Start in the Folic Acid Success Story

Categories: General
Editor’s Note: In 2012 we will mark the 20th anniversary of the US Public Health Service recommendation that women of childbearing age should consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day to help prevent certain neural tube defects (NTDs) – spina bifida and anencephaly. Several CDC scientists were involved in the research that led up to the recommendation, or contributed to the subsequent work on folic acid that continues today, including Joseph Mulinare, Robert J. Berry, J. David Erickson, and Godfrey Oakley. The four blogs in this series tell their stories.
Photo of Erickson, Smithells, and Oakley - Folic Acid Researchers
Dave Erickson (l) and Godfrey Oakley (r) with Richard Smithells (c), who wrote one of the first papers on folic acid’s ability to prevent spina bifida. Says Oakley, “We were working very hard in South Carolina one afternoon!” Photo courtesy of Godfrey Oakley
J. David (Dave) Erickson, DDS, PhD, who worked with RJ Berry in the China study, was involved from the beginning with CDC’s work on folic acid. He acknowledges that initially there was substantial doubt within CDC about folic acid’s preventive effects. “Richard Smithells did an important but non-randomized trial of the use of folic acid in vitamin supplements as a preventive effect. There was reluctance to move forward on the part of the scientific and public health nutrition community because of the concern about sufficient data.”
Erickson points out another concern. “When I and most of the other people who worked on this had been told in our education that you get all the micronutrients you needed from eating a good diet—this issue of folic acid enrichment kind of flew in the face of that—and that added to the skepticism. It’s fair to say that we spent a lot of time talking about it. That was in 1981 or ‘82.”
Erickson, who retired from CDC in 2006 and now lives in Gainesville, recalls the many collaborations between members of the CDC team as well as people from outside the agency. Over the years, Erickson has worked on various aspects of the folic acid issue: conducting studies, considering policy, writing articles, and being a part of a team that ultimately made a major difference in public health.
“We started in the early ‘80s and ten years later we participated with people outside of CDC to develop a recommendation on the use of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. There were people from CDC, NIH, HRSA, and the FDA who were involved in what culminated in the recommendation, although the CDC team spearheaded the effort. There were hearings of various advisory committees to the FDA on the issue of requiring fortification in enriched cereal grains—that had to be mandated by the FDA. It was another seven or eight years until the food supply was fortified, a follow-up to evaluate the effect of that, and then an effort by the team which continues today to promote changes in the consumption of folic acid, nationally and internationally.”
Like other members of the CDC team, Erickson says that it has been most gratifying for him to have been part of the group that pushed an issue “that’s done a tremendous amount of good, and will continue to do a tremendous amount of good.” He adds, “These defects that folic acid prevents are hard things to deal with. There have been a tremendous number of babies born without these problems since this work was completed and the public health programs were put in place. And it’s extremely satisfying for me to have been a part of that.”
For more information about CDC’s folic acid success story, go Folic Acid: Helping to Prevent Birth Defects. For more detailed information on folic acid, visit the CDC Folic Acid Web Page on the CDC Works For You 24/7 website. Thanks to Faye McDonald Smith of CDC who wrote the original article on which this blog was based.

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