My name is Lauren Melton and I am a freshman at East Carolina University. This fall, I took an Honors Health course with Dr. Barry Elmore that required “Service Learning.” I thought to myself, “I just started school here, and they’re already pushing me to do volunteer work?” Little did I know what an amazing experience I would have.
I worked at an organization known as the Eastern Area Health Education Center here in Greenville under the wonderful supervision of Mrs. Mildred Carraway. She is the coordinator for the Perinatal Outreach Education Program, and promotes the reduction of infant mortality and disease by providing educational offerings to perinatal health care providers. Mrs. Mildred organizes programs for these people so that they will be well informed, correctly educated, and able to assist people in their own communities. I actually got to help Mrs. Mildred put “goodie bags” together that were filled with little informational objects to be passed out to the health care providers who came to a program she was doing about the B-vitamin folic acid. I also helped make visuals for the program by pairing regular sized diapers with extremely tiny ones and tying them together, emphasizing the drastic difference in size between a healthy newborn and a premature baby. I later was able to create a display board for Mrs. Mildred to use at her other programs; it promoted folic acid and the risks women take by failing to consume enough of this vitamin.
So what’s the big deal about folic acid? I leaned that consuming the proper amount of the vitamin greatly reduces the risk of birth defects in the brain and spine, such as Spina Bifida and Anencephaly. It is suggested that women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four start taking the recommended daily amount, which is 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) per day. A good quantity of folic acid can be found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, “enriched” breads, and other fortified foods, such as cereals like Special K and Total. Vitamin supplements that include 100% folic acid are great ways of getting the suggested amount of the vitamin.
My goals that I established at the beginning of my service learning project have been met. I wanted to be able to learn more about healthy pregnancies and what young women can start doing now to help ensure positive futures. I am always asking my friends now if they are taking a vitamin with 100% folic acid, and encourage the ones who are not to do so with my new-found knowledge. This is an important issue that cannot be ignored, and I thank Mrs. Mildred and the Eastern AHEC for giving me the opportunity to promote it.