Barriers and facilitators to the implementation of mandatory folate fortification as an evidence-based policy to prevent neural tube defects

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Child's nervous system : ChNS : official journal of the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery




Advocacy; Anencephaly; Barriers; Determinant factors; Facilitators; Implementation; Mandatory folate fortification; Neural tube defects; Spina bifida


BACKGROUND: Neural tube defects continue to be one of the main congenital malformations affecting the development of the nervous system and a significant cause of disability and disease burden to individuals living with these conditions. Mandatory food fortification with folic acid is, by far, one of the most efficacious, safe, and cost-effective interventions to prevent neural tube defects. However, most countries fail to effectively fortify staple foods with folic acid, impacting public health and healthcare systems and generating dismal disparities. AIM: This article discusses the main barriers and facilitators for implementing mandatory food fortification as an evidence-based policy to prevent neural tube defects worldwide. METHODS: A comprehensive review of the scientific literature allowed the identification of the determinant factors acting as barriers or facilitators for the reach, adoption, implementation, and scaling up of mandatory food fortification with folic acid as an evidence-based policy. RESULTS: We identified eight barriers and seven facilitators as determinant factors for food fortification policies. The identified factors were classified as individual, contextual, and external, inspired by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation of Research (CFIR). We discuss mechanisms to overcome obstacles and seize the opportunities to approach this public health intervention safely and effectively. CONCLUSIONS: Several determinant factors acting as barriers or facilitators influence the implementation of mandatory food fortification as an evidence-based policy worldwide. Notoriously, policymakers in many countries may lack knowledge of the benefits of scaling up their policies to prevent folic acid-sensitive neural tube defects, improve the health status of their communities, and promote the protection of many children from these disabling but preventable conditions. Not addressing this problem negatively affects four levels: public health, society, family, and individuals. Science-driven advocacy and partnerships with essential stakeholders can help overcome the barriers and leverage the facilitators for safe and effective food fortification.


Clinical Research and Leadership