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Number of children lacking Vitamin D soars by more than 200% in five years: Parents told to give youngsters supplements

PUBLISHED: 00:52, 21 October 2014 UPDATED: 16:39, 21 October 2014

  • Worrying lack of knowledge by GP's and health workers on guidelines: study

  • Campaigners say danger of returning to 'Victorian' levels of the problem

  • Vitamin found in sun and foods such as oily fish, eggs as well as mushrooms

  • Survey finds few know none in light between months of November to March

The number of children with vitamin D deficiency has soared by more than 200 per cent in five years because parents are unaware how important it is for health, a study has revealed.

It also exposed a ‘worrying’ lack of knowledge by GPs and health workers about the Government’s guidelines on the vitamin.

Now the public health awareness campaign which commissioned the study is warning parents must give their children supplements and fortified foods to avoid a return to ‘Victorian’ levels of vitamin D deficiency, when the bone-softening disease rickets was common.

Vitamin D Mission said supplements were particularly important during winter months when sunlight is not strong enough to enable skin to produce the vitamin.

Foods such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms naturally contain vitamin D, but many cereals and some dairy products are fortified with the vitamin. Skin exposure to sunlight from March to October also produces vitamin D.

The survey of more than 1,100 parents and 250 health professionals found only 4 per cent of parents with children under five knew that sunlight in the UK between November and March could not provide vitamin D.
Worryingly, only 7 per cent of GPs and health visitors surveyed could name the months when sunlight was too weak to produce it. And a third of health professionals and four in five parents were unaware of government guidelines that children aged from six months to five years old should take a daily vitamin D supplement.

Half of parents admitted knowing ‘not much’ or ‘nothing’ about the role of the vitamin in their child’s health, while more than a third said they had never received any information about its importance in relation to their child.

The Vitamin D Mission also gathered hospital data on admissions for vitamin D deficiency and rickets, which is caused by a lack of the vitamin, and found cases in under-16s have jumped from 1,398 in 2009/10 to 4,638 in 2013/14.

The east Midlands saw the biggest jump in cases – with a 628 per cent increase since 2009/10 - while the south west saw the smallest increase at 3 per cent. London and the south east both had increases of more than 300 per cent.

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and clinical consultant to the Vitamin D Mission, said: ‘These findings are very worrying as they seem to suggest that parents in the UK are still not properly informed of the major health issues associated with low levels of vitamin D.
"Vitamin D-related conditions, such as rickets, are increasing year on year"
 Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician

‘Vitamin D-related conditions, such as rickets, are increasing year on year so there is a need for us to work harder in ensuring parents are aware of the Department of Health guidelines and acting on it.

‘Due to the weak sunlight during the winter months, we are urging parents to make every day a vitamin D day, and include naturally occurring or fortified vitamin D-rich foods into their children’s diets, or to provide them with a daily supplement.’

GP Dr Ellie Cannon said the average British toddler only received around 27 per cent of the recommended vitamin D intake. She added: ‘Much more work needs to be done around increasing awareness among parents and healthcare professionals.

‘In addition, parents can make a few simple adjustments to their children’s diet such as including more naturally-rich and enhanced vitamin D foods.’ 

Colin Darroch, Managing Director at Boston Healthcare, talks about the brand...

PHARMACY BUSINESS interview March 2015

Why should Pharmacists stock this brand?

The first most important point on our DaliVit brand is that they can only be purchased by the consumer through Pharmacy, therefore they do not have to compete with the grocery sector. DaliVit is a brand that Pharmacists will know well through the dispensing of prescriptions. It is well recognized that where the seven essential vitamins are required at an early stage, then providing a multivitamin such as DaliVit can be recommended. The strategy now is to direct the consumer to buy DaliVit through Pharmacy and this is being supported by its biggest media spend ever through magazine and digital campaigning, engaging the BabyCenter to target mums. For Pharmacists one very important message is our Peanut Free formulation in our multivitamin, which provides that additional confidence when recommending the brand. DaliVit is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans which can also be helpful when asked by the consumer. Our development has seen us launch the latest addition to the DaliVit brand with our D3 Drops which will be supported by its own advertising campaign throughout 2015, in parallel with the multivitamin drops.

What is the History of the brand?

The brand has over 40 years of history being initially marketed by Windsor Healthcare, before it was divested and over the next 12 years was in the hands of two other companies. Boston Healthcare was founded in May 2011, by myself and our Chairman Steve Stocks with the business strategy to acquire “Heritage” brands that could be revitalized through marketing and sales support and developed further to provide line extensions. Trusted brands have a place in Pharmacy, which is why our strategy is “What’s sold in Pharmacy – Stays in Pharmacy”

What is it worth?

Through neglect and no focus the brand had declined over the years, however since we have put marketing behind the brand and focused our efforts on Pharmacy the sales have grown three fold and it is now worth approximately £3 million at Retail. The launch of DaliVit D3 is set to see the brand franchise grow in excess of £4 million.

With increased consumer marketing scheduled over the next 12 months to grow front of pharmacy sales, and increased activity targeting prescribers we are looking to achieve the same levels of growth we have currently achieved.

What is the secret of its success?

We have a wealth of experience in the business covering, sales marketing and retailing and a great belief in our products. We as a business are committed to supporting DaliVit and all our brands though driving the Footfall into Pharmacy, providing Pharmacy support, consumer and professional advertising and bringing new products to the market. As a small business it allows us to react quickly to market needs and plan innovation in our brands, committee meetings are a thing of the past, we work on focused management and understanding our customers.

Our focus has been understanding both the consumer and the prescriber’s needs. Packaging has been a primary focus to ensure product visibility on the shelf.

What category management advice would you give pharmacists looking to stock this brand?

Give it space on the VMS children’s category, make it visible to your shoppers, a key message being Peanut Free which is important when allergies are mum’s concern, use our on line training modules which are in a PDF format and can be printed, also remember once they make the purchase in Pharmacy they have to come back to you for the next purchase. DaliVit multivitamins and our latest addition D3 Drops should become part of your children’s vitamin category.

What is the ultimate aim for the brand?

To make DaliVit multivitamins and DaliVit D3 drops leading vitamin brands in Pharmacy. Within our NPD plans there will be a further 2 line extensions launched over the next 18 months to meet the needs of the market. We will continue to invest in our marketing by promoting our brands to consumers and prescribers alike, directing the footfall into pharmacy where the consumers can receive the support they need to make an informed choice, what we need now is Pharmacy to support our brand front of pharmacy, take advantage of the support material we can provide and we are always on the end of the phone to take your calls or answer you emails.

How important are independent pharmacists to our brand?

I think our strategy answers that question quite simple, “What sold in Pharmacy – Stays in Pharmacy”. Pharmacy only brands are the core of the Boston Healthcare business, not a part of it.

As a business we believe that through Pharmacy the consumer will receive the best experience with our DaliVit brand and all the others.

What is the main marketing activity around the brand?

We have invested in and will continue to invest in, Consumer print, Profession print, Digital and PR, POS education support through the DaliVit website, our support at pharmacy level through the Miles Group salesforce, with plans for TV in the coming 12 months the DaliVit brands should take their place on pharmacy shelves. Also available by contacting our customer services are a range multilingual leaflets, including Hindi, Gujarati, Polish and English.

What is the one thing about the brand that makes it most memorable to consumers?

We are proud of the Heritage the brand brings to both pharmacy and consumers it has stood the test of time as an influential vitamin in child health and we will continue to develop this through our pharmacy partners. Oh and my own children used to take it when they were infants.

Advice for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants

Parents will often seek advice in pharmacy, particularly when it concerns their children. Our aim is to provide advice and tips that will give you confidence and accurate knowledge when communicating with customers about childrens multivitamins.  

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