AUBURN – Western Maine Community Action, a nonprofit agency providing health and wellness services to people in Franklin, Androscoggin and Oxford counties, recently received a $14,162 grant from the Maine Chapter of the March of Dimes, a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

The grant enables WMCA to offer free reproductive health screening and enhanced prenatal nutritional education to women who do not have health insurance.

Two programs, Tri-County Health Services and Womens Infants and Children, will work in partnership on the screen test project to offer free screening and treatment for urinary and reproductive tract infections and sexually transmitted infections to women who are between the ages of 15 to 40, do not have health insurance and are not pregnant and to enhance efforts to provide folic acid education and to increase the consumption of a daily multi-vitamin in women of childbearing age

As an added incentive, WIC clients who are referred to Tri-County Health Services for a free reproductive health screening will receive a free video rental gift certificate as well as an opportunity to qualify for a future drawing for a free DVD and TV. Women who meet the criteria for free reproductive health screening, but are not WIC participants, are encouraged to call the health services agency for more information.

March of Dimes has been leading a national educational campaign about folic acid and its role in preventing birth defects since 1998.

“Since half the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, we are trying to get women in the habit of taking a multiple vitamin everyday, just in case,” said Sara Hayes, a nurse practitioner at Tri-County.

The agency will give free vitamins to women of childbearing age. Program participants will be later interviewed to see how many of the women who received free vitamins are consuming them daily. The data will be shared by March of Dimes leadership and provide a basis for WMCA’s future plans to increase folic acid consumption in the target population.

The WMCA WIC program serves approximately 325 low income women each month with food and nutritional counseling. WIC staff will inform their clients of the free testing and treatment available through the screen test project. For more information, visit or call 795-4007.

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