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The vitamin D deficiency: should we act?

Healthcare PR agency Say Communications analyses whether headlines are able to trigger a behavioural change with regards to the vitamin D deficiency issue.
As someone with an aspiring career in healthcare PR I have recently gained an education in the world of healthcare journalism in the mainstream media. As an intern I have noted how health and medicine shape the headlines of the newspapers and magazines we read every day. But I’m yet to establish whether these headlines then go onto shape our lives? Or are they forgotten quicker than you can say ‘vitamin D supplements’?

Vitamin D has recently hit the forefront of our popular consciousness, gaining national coverage in newspapers over the last week. The story hit the headlines as government health advisors are now declaring that, thanks to Britain’s perpetual state of drizzle, the entire population is not receiving sufficient levels of vitamin D. Subsequently in order to protect our health and boost our vitamin D levels we may have to become a nation of supplement takers. This marks a change from current government advice which suggests that only specific groups are at-risk; these include children under 5, pregnant women and adults over 65.

So we’re all at-risk of a vitamin D deficiency –but will we alter our lifestyles accordingly? The draft report which sparked this media activity was due to be released in 2007, but has been continually delayed. It is presumed these delays were due to the huge wealth of ever-growing information regarding vitamin D. This diminishes hope that the final report, due in 2016, will be published punctually. By this time people will almost certainly have lost interest in what was once breaking news.

The seeming lack of urgency surrounding the report is enough for anyone to mistake this current influx of headlines as a big fuss about nothing. However the delays merely highlight the sheer quantity of information, the complications of completely changing current government advice and inevitable bureaucracy.

I also feel a misunderstanding about the severity of this issue may prevent people from taking action. I can confidently assume this news story has led to numerous puns surrounding the British summer (or lack of it). Herein lies the problem – something with such a simple solution as getting 15 minutes sun exposure a day or taking over the counter supplements does not feel as intimidating as many health headlines. However a vitamin D deficiency can not only harm your bones but is also blamed for chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

So while the headlines may be forgotten, awareness still needs to be raised. When the solution is so simple, why take the risk at all?

-Written by Jenny A.

2nd September 2015

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