A qualitative study of uptake of free vitamins in England

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Abstract

Objective

To identify reasons why eligible families are not accessing free ‘Healthy Start’ vitamin supplementation (providing vitamins A, C and D) in England.

Design

Qualitative study using in-depth interviews.

Setting

13 primary care trusts in England.

Participants

Purposive sample of 15 Healthy Start coordinators, 50 frontline health and children's professionals and 107 parents.

Results

Vitamin take-up was low across all research sites, reported as below 10% of eligible beneficiaries for free vitamins. Reasons identified by both parents and professionals included (1) poor accessibility of vitamins, (2) low promotion of the scheme by health professionals, (3) a lack of awareness among eligible families, and (4) low motivation among mothers to take vitamins for themselves during pregnancy or for children under 4 years old.

Conclusions

Low uptake rates can be explained by poor accessibility of vitamins and lack of awareness and motivation to take vitamin supplements among eligible families. Universal provision (at least for pregnant women) and better training for health professionals are identified as potential solutions worthy of further research and evaluation.

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