Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 17, 2013

Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida or anencephaly, affect 3,000 babies in the United States each year. The majority of these cases can be prevented by taking folic acid throughout pregnancy, through diet or other supplements, or through the fortification of food.

Because many grains in the United States are enriched with folic acid, there have been declines in neural tube defects. However, many staple foods in Hispanic communities are made from corn flour, which is not fortified. Hispanic populations also see greater rates of neural tube defects.

In their Critical Opportunities presentation, Erica Reott, MPH and Lt. Cmdr. Kinzie Lee, MPH, make the case that fortifying corn flour could improve health outcomes and reduce disparities among Hispanic women and their babies.

The Critical Opportunities initiative of the Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation presents evidence and ideas for proposed legal and policy changes that can positively impact public health challenges. This video presents these ideas and evidence, and includes the practical and political feasibility of implementing the proposed changes to laws and policies. All Critical Opportunities videos can be viewed at

 Learn more about corn flour fortification for the prevention of neural tube defects:

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The views expressed in these Critical Opportunities presentations are those of the authors or presenters, and do not represent the views or values of Public Health Law Research or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.