Arizona women ages 18-45 can receive free vitamins to support their health, thanks to Power Me A2Z, a community education program of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).
A key ingredient in the multivitamins is folic acid, which is known to prevent neural tube defects in unborn children. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly.
The State of Arizona funds the vitamin distribution program each year in an effort to prevent these birth defects, according to Susie Leo, MPH, RDN, special project coordinator at the ADHS Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity.
“Most women don’t even know that they’re pregnant in time to prevent neural tube defects,” she says. “If they are already in the habit of taking a daily vitamin, they are more likely to prevent these defects.”
Power Me A2Z vitamins include 400mcg of folic acid, the recommended daily amount for most women. Most standard daily multivitamins for women contain that same amount.
Folic acid has many other benefits beyond preventing birth defects. “It makes your hair shine, your skin glow, and your nails grow stronger,” says Leo. The Power Me A2Z website lists additional benefits of folic acid:
- Helps your body make serotonin which lifts your spirits.
- Regulates an amino acid that helps stabilize your mood.
- Works to produce red blood cells and helps the body absorb iron.
- Helps prevent heart disease and stroke by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
- Can lower your chances of developing colon, breast, cervical, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.
Folic acid is a man-made version of the nutrient folate, which can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts. Fruits rich in folate include oranges, lemons, bananas, melons, and strawberries. However, you would need 16 slices of bread and 10 glasses of orange juice to get the recommended amount of folate. Leo also notes the body actually absorbs the man-made version of the nutrient more efficiently.
ADHS has been giving out free multivitamins since 2002. In 2013, it launched the Power Me A2Z education campaign to complement the vitamin distribution program. The website offers access to resources and information supporting women’s health, relationships and family, and promotes the pillars of good health: eating a nutritious diet, getting plenty of activity and enough sleep, and reducing stress. A comprehensive chart explains the benefits and sources of a variety of vitamins.
The vitamin distribution program is evaluated every two years with surveys to 500 women who received the vitamins. Results consistently show a high percentage of participants report that the vitamins have made a positive change in their lives.
These vitamins are for people who are not pregnant. “Our vitamins are for women before and between pregnancies,” Leo says, adding that pregnant women should take prenatal vitamins recommended by their obstetricians.
To get your free 100-day supply of Power Me A2Z vitamins, simply take a five-question online quiz that’s part fun, part awareness building. Vitamins will arrive in five to six weeks. Learn more at PowerMeA2Z.org.