Get out and play to keep rickets at bay
FREE vitamins could be handed out to children in Gloucestershire under new recommendations to ward off rising cases of rickets.
Only low-income families with children aged six months to four years currently benefit from supplements of vitamins A, C and D – but that could change.
Chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has called for a full review of current policy as new figures show rickets is on the rise.
Poor diet and a lack of outdoor play is starving children of vitamin D, usually found in oily fish, eggs and liver, as well as natural sunlight.
Gents, come in to Earl's & Co and enjoy a haircut and finish, glass of whisky and a shoeshine for £18.50
Terms: Later and earlier appointments available upon request
Contact: 01242 504887
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
Professor Davies said the UK's record on children's health used to be "one of the best, but we are now the worst". Possible causes include lifestyle behaviours in pregnancy, such as smoking, and poor care in infancy.
Candace Plouffe, director of children and young people's services for Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust, said: "Our county-wide team of health visitors work with families where the children may be as young as a few weeks old.
"They provide advice and support on a range of health matters, with nutrition being a vitally important area.
"Pregnant women in particular, and families with children under the age of five, will be given advice about the importance of having vitamin supplements A, C and D.
"We are also able to exchange vouchers for vitamins as part of a national Healthy Start Vitamins scheme for eligible families.
"We encourage parents and schools to adopt physical activities as per National Healthy School Standard (NHSS), as this enhances bone and muscular development, as well as allowing for exposure of skin to the sunlight, which is a protective factor for rickets."
Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust is part of the Healthy Start Vitamins scheme, under which eligible families can access vitamins in exchange for Healthy Start vouchers at well baby clinics throughout the county.
Families who are eligible for the Healthy Start vouchers will be sent a green coupon every eight weeks, which can be swapped locally for free Healthy Start vitamins at distribution points throughout the county, including GPs' surgeries, health centres and children centres.
An estimated 40 per cent of children in the UK are estimated to have vitamin D levels below the recommended amount, with around 800 cases of rickets a year.
The vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, essential for healthy bones and teeth.
Sunlight is a good natural source of vitamin D, but high factor sun cream and outdoor play areas swallowed up by development are reducing its effect.
Ben Morris, urban team leader at Gloucestershire Play, said families have no excuse not to encourage children to play outside.
"We are finding that we are getting more children and young people coming to our outdoor play sessions," he said.
"The most popular thing that children we have asked want to do is to play outdoors with their friends.
"Green spaces are being developed and that means they are having to travel further to use parks and safe play areas."
Play Gloucestershire events are being held during half term. For a full list visit playgloucestershire.org.uk.