Blount and Anastasia News Article Lead ImageJeffrey Blount, M.D., MPH, Pediatric Division Director of the UAB Department of Neurosurgery, and Clinical Research Manager and UAB School of Public Health doctoral student, Anastasia Smith, MPH, recently received the Lister Hill Center’s Pilot Grants for Health Policy Research award for the proposal, “Feasibility Study of Double Fortified Salt with Iodine and Folic Acid: Potential for the US Fortification Policy Update.”

The grant was awarded in the amount of $19,823 and will fund Blount’s research from Jan. 10, 2023, through Jan. 9, 2024. 
Smith will directly assist Blount throughout the project as co-principal investigator and study coordinator.
Neural tube defects (NTD) arise during the first 28 days of neural development, before a woman is even aware of the pregnancy. Occurring at a rate of 214,000 to 322,000 cases annually worldwide, NTDs are alarming healthcare professionals. 
Research surrounding NTDs and folic acid shows a dose-response relationship between maternal red blood cell (RBC) folate levels and NTD prevalence rates. Folic acid, commonly referred to as vitamin B9, is a synthetic form of folate. It is known that a high percentage of all NTDs are triggered by insufficient maternal folate intake.
Blount and Smith’s research objective is to assess the feasibility of using salt as a new staple for food fortification with folic acid. They believe that salt double fortified with folic acid and iodine (DFS) could be a complementary vehicle for folic acid fortification globally.
Their goal is for foods fortified with folic acid to be available to vulnerable populations worldwide that do not have access to enriched grains some countries are already fortifying with folic acid.