“Fun and quirky” were the words used to describe the three localised short films recently launched to raise awareness of the importance of Vitamin D in childhood.
Featuring local children and adults from the Butt to Barra, the films were created by NHS Western Isles to bring some playfulness to an otherwise unexciting subject, with some light-hearted and humorous results.
Using adults whose voices are dubbed by children, each of the films delivers its own Vitamin D message: The importance of Vitamin D; How do I get my Vitamin D?; and The Healthy Start Scheme.
Low Vitamin D levels are recognised as a particular issue for all pregnant and breastfeeding women, and infants and children under 5 years. Pregnant women must also ensure that not only their own requirement for Vitamin D is met, but that they also build up adequate stores in the developing foetus for early infancy. Lower levels can also be more common in adults aged 65 years and over, black/other darker-skinned minority ethnic or mixed race groups, and those with limited exposure to sunlight.
Dr. Benjamin Jacobs, Consultant Paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, said, ” Vitamin D is recognised as being essential for healthy bones, anyone who lacks it
is at risk of health problems.”
With Vitamin D known to be important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones (specifically Vitamin D3 which increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium), it is also an important factor in ensuring muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and helping the body to fight infection. Research also reports that Vitamin D is important in preventing and treating a number of serious long-term health problems.
Our bodies would normally make most of the Vitamin D it needs through sunlight with the recommended 10-15 minutes of unprotected Scottish sunshine every day (whilst taking care not to get red or burnt). However, it can be difficult to obtain the levels we need due to our traditional Hebridean weather, as well using daily products that contain sunscreen, such as creams and makeup.
We can also receive small amounts of Vitamin D from foods that we eat. Foods that are richer in Vitamin D are oily fish (both fresh and tinned) such as salmon, mackerel, trout, kippers and sardines, and eggs and meat. We can also obtain Vitamin D from some cereals, soya and dairy products, powdered milks and low-fat spreads and margarines, although amounts in some of these products vary and are often quite small.
With conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults being the best understood consequences of Vitamin D deficiency, studies are also continuing on how the lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter months is linked to immune-mediated diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Jacobs added, “In the UK we have a lack of Vitamin D in our food and we take few supplements. We also have a lack of sunshine. The UK is quite far from the equator, so in the winter it’s just not possible to form Vitamin D for at least four months from about October to April. As you go north in the UK, the Vitamin D winter gets longer and longer, so up at the north of Scotland, for most of the year, it’s difficult or impossible to get enough Vitamin D from sunshine.”
The films also acknowledge how purchasing lesser-priced/generic Vitamin D supplements can be just as effective (and more cost-effective) as purchasing Vitamin D supplements at a higher price/brand name.
Emelin Collier, Chair of the Western Isles Maternal & Information Nutrition (MIN) Strategy Group, said, “The Western Isles MIN Strategy Group offers free Healthy Start Pregnancy tablets to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, which are available from their Midwife or Health Visitor.”
She added, “For children aged six months to four years, parents are encouraged to provide them with 5 daily drops of the Healthy Start Vitamin Drops, which are available free of charge from their GP Surgery, Health Visitor, Sports Centre or Nursery.”
“Adults are also recommended to take a single daily Vitamin D supplement, whilst for older adults, a single daily Vitamin D supplement with added calcium may be recommended to protect against Osteoporosis.”
The three films are available to view via the NHS Western Isles’ social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and its website, as well as via the ParentingWI website at: www.parentingwi.scot.nhs.uk
The film was commissioned by the Western Isles Maternal & Infant Nutrition (MIN) Group on behalf of the NHS Western Isles Division of Public Health and Health Strategy and produced by Lynne Maciver of local company Wrapped Up Productions.