Launched this week, the review calls on the public, experts, industry and patient groups for ‘innovative ways’ to boost vitamin D levels especially among Black and South Asian communities, where levels of the vital vitamin are generally lower.
“I have launched this call for evidence to identify innovative ways we can encourage people to increase their vitamin D intake and help people live longer, healthier and happier lives,” says Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid.
“People from Black and Asian communities, older people and people who have limited access to the outdoors are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D, which is essential for bone and muscle health and improving years of life lived in good health.
“We must break the link between background and prospects for a healthy life, and I am determined to level up the health of the nation and tackle disparities.”
Rickets & bone pain
Around one in six adults and almost 20% of children in the UK have vitamin D levels lower than government recommendations. These adults include the elderly and the housebound.
Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to rickets in children and bone pain and muscle weakness in adults.
Launched by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), the review will trigger a national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of vitamin D.
The call for evidence also aims to include food manufacturers, retailers and industry bodies as well as the public and public health experts, to gather ways to improve uptake and tackle disparities.
It will last for six weeks and the OHID also plans to seek advice from representatives from pharmacy and health organisations, and bodies representing at risk groups.
The review precedes a health disparities white paper due to be published later this year, which will set out action to reduce health disparities between places and communities.
The aim here is to address the causes, so that people’s backgrounds do not dictate their prospects for a healthy life.
“I welcome this call for evidence as part of OHID’s continued drive to improve health outcomes and tackle health disparities,” adds Dr Tazeem Bhatia, Interim Chief Nutritionist at OHID.
“We want to improve the dietary health of the population and this includes supporting everyone to maintain sufficient vitamin D levels to support strong and healthy bones and muscles.”
The UK government currently make available free supplements containing folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin D to eligible pregnant women and new mothers under its Healthy Start scheme.
Eligible children under four years of age can also receive free supplements. However, estimated take-up of these supplements is extremely low.