Kimberley Aboriginal Services Council Inc Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council Research

Folate intake and blood folate levels in the Western Australian Aboriginal Population

Previous studies have shown that compared to non-Aboriginal babies, Aboriginal babies are twice as likely to be born with a birth defect called a neural tube defect (eg Spina Bifida). These defects arise during the development of the brain and spinal cord of the unborn baby. It is estimated that 50% - 70% of these defects can be prevented if a woman consumes enough folic acid daily before conception and throughout the first trimester of her pregnancy. This has lead to public health policies including mandatory fortification of food with folate in a number of countries. In September 2007 the Australian Government agreed to introduce compulsory enrichment of bread making flour with folate, and has given industry 2 years to comply with this.

This project will provide current baseline information on the intake of dietary folate and levels of folate and vitamin B12 in the blood in a sample of the West Australian Aboriginal population, prior to the introduction of fortification. The participants will be recruited from the Broome, Kalgoorlie and Perth in collaboration with Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHS):

  • Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS)
  • Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service (DYHS)
  • Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council (KAMSC)

Three to five years after mandatory fortification is instituted a second round of sampling will be done and compared with the baseline measures obtained from this current study. That evaluation will show the extent to which mandatory fortification has reached the WA Aboriginal population. If mandatory fortification does not reach the desired levels, further health promotion campaigns can be targeted at these audiences and where necessary methods of improving access to fortified foods in these subgroups can be developed.


  • Mary Lane
  • Assoc Prof Julia Marley
  • Dr Kate Brameld, Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Population Health, UWA
  • Clin Prof Carol Bower, Head of Epidemiology, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  • Heather D’Antoine, Senior Research Officer, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  • Dr Siobhan Hickling, National Heart Foundation Research Fellow, School of Population Health, UWA
  • Jennifer Stott, Manager, Contracts and Programs, Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service
  • Assoc Prof David Atkinson
  • Dr Carmel Nelson


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