The use of folic acid, a dietary supplement that can prevent neural tube birth defects, among Hispanic women of childbearing age in California declined between 2002 and 2006, compared with gradual increases in consumption among other groups, according to a study published Friday in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the study, from 2002 to 2006, the percentage of Hispanic women taking daily supplements with folic acid declined slightly from 32.8% to 30.2% despite a 10-year public health effort that has increased consumption among black, white and Asian women.
Overall, in 2006, 50.6% of white women, 39.5% of black women and 40% of Asian women or women of other races used daily folic acid supplements, the study found.
Experts suggested that lower rates of folic acid consumption among Hispanic women may be because they receive less health counseling, have lower education levels and delay prenatal care.
Cultural differences also might contribute to fewer Hispanic women consuming folic acid, according to Michelle Bholat, a Hispanic family physician at University of California-Los Angeles.
State health officials are concerned that the low rates of folic acid consumption by Hispanic women could lead to an increase in the state's overall birth defect rate because more than 50% of infants born in the state are to Hispanic women.
Previous studies have indicated that Hispanic women in the state already have nearly doubled the neural tube birth defects compared to white women.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation