Vitamin D for you and me

What: A local campaign to raise awareness of the importance of taking vitamin D supplements

Who: Pauline Bigwood – Specialist Public Health Nurse

Annette Maloney – Children and families Clinical Services Manager

Background: Pauline Bigwood is passionate about making a difference for our children’s future health outcomes and potential. She is a Paediatric nurse and Specialist Community Public Health Nurse, Health Visiting by background and has over 20 years’ experience of working with children and families. Pauline is proud to be an Institute of Health Visiting Fellow and CSH Surrey outstanding Health Visitor of the Year 2015. In addition, she is an External Clinical Advisor for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and participates in debates at all levels including All Party Parliamentary Meetings. Her current role is Practice Development Lead and Professional Practice Teacher at CSH Surrey working as part of the senior leadership team. She remains determined to raise awareness of the unique role of the Health Visitor in supporting families and committed to empowering our Health Visitors by delivery training to embed evidenced based best practice, building skills for leadership and innovation.

Approach: Prevention

Location: CSH Surrey

Speciality: Community Health Services for Children and Families

What initiative are you involved in?

The ‘Vitamin D for you and me’ campaign is about raising awareness and supplementation among pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies and children up to five years old.

What prompted the work?

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bone growth and children’s general development, but there is growing evidence of an increase in vitamin D deficiency in the UK population:

  • in the past 15 years there has been a fourfold rise in the bone disease rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2012)
  • one-and-a half to three-year-olds are getting just 27% of their daily recommended intake of vitamin D from food (National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 2011-2012)
  • parents are now, quite rightly, concerned about the risks of sunburn so are using sunscreen, which prevents the body making vitamin D.

The Department of Health (DH) recommends that expectant mums, those breastfeeding and children under five years of age take daily supplements.

How did you initiate the work?

CSH Surrey’s 0-19 health visiting and community nursery nurse teams worked closely with its Paediatric Dieticians to create the campaign, which was launched in July 2014.

The teams used badges, posters, information stickers and events to prompt discussions with mothers about the importance of vitamin D supplementation. They also worked closely with GPs, midwives and paediatricians as well as colleagues in Children’s Centres and Surrey County Council to maximise reach and impact.

The campaign promoted the message: “Give your child a daily supplement and then you don’t have to worry about your family getting too much or not enough sun to meet their daily Vitamin D needs.”

What difference has the project or initiative made?

The team used a questionnaire before the launch to determine current levels of awareness of Department of Health recommendations, supplementation and the likelihood of future use. The results showed 72% of parents or carers were likely to start supplementation following a vitamin D discussion.

Community health teams across the country have approached CSH Surrey to use the resources for their own campaigns.

What are the long-term objectives?

To continue to go out there and make a difference by:

  • delivering further training
  • running awareness and education events for health professionals
  • taking the message out into the community and professional practice events
  • promoting the initiative, via traditional and social media.