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Free vitamins for you and your baby

Cllr Ahsan Khan and Mayor of Waltham Forest Cllr Saima Mahmud
Every pregnant woman and newborn baby in Waltham Forest can receive two months’ worth of free vitamins as part of a Council scheme to help them become healthier.



More than 150 local families gathered at the Lloyd Park Centre, in Walthamstow, on Thursday 9 July to celebrate the official launch of the Waltham Forest Universal Healthy Start Vitamin Scheme, which is being delivered in partnership with Barts Health NHS Trust, the North East London Foundation Trust and NHS Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group.



The launch event featured fun activities for children, healthy cooking demonstrations, produce from the local Veggie Van and the chance to speak to representatives from Our Parks, the Council-backed programme of free outdoor activity sessions for residents.



One of six pledges outlined in the Council’s 2015 Public Health Charter, Waltham Forest’s Universal Healthy Start Vitamin Scheme aims to address the high rate of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women in the borough and ensure that our youngest residents get the very best start in life.



It is hoped the initiative will encourage new parents to take steps to improve their family’s longer term vitamin uptake and continue to give vitamin supplements to their children until they reach five years old at least as well as building more nutrient rich food into their diets. 



Cllr Ahsan Khan, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “The idea behind this scheme is simple but the health benefits are huge. 



“We know from a recent study in Waltham Forest that almost 80 per cent of pregnant women don’t get enough vitamin D. Through the Universal Healthy Start Vitamin Scheme we hope to reduce this figure, and help ensure mums-to-be and newborn babies are healthy and happy.”



National guidelines recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women take a vitamin D supplement. Breast fed babies should take vitamins from one month of age, and all children should take vitamins from six months to five years of age.



Working with local partners, the Council is arranging for all pregnant women in the borough to receive one free bottle of Healthy Start Vitamins from their midwife at their booking appointment.



The local authority is also making sure parents/carers of all newborn babies in Waltham Forest will be able to collect a free bottle of vitamin drops from a Child Health Clinic.



Dr Tonia Myers, local GP and Clinical Director at NHS Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group said:  “Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem. Providing vitamins free of charge is a great initiative to increase awareness and to give children the best start in life.



“These bottles provide two months’ worth of free vitamins, but it is recommended they are taken throughout the entire pregnancy, during breastfeeding, and for children to take the drops up to the age of five. Many local pharmacies and supermarkets will sell these or similar vitamins over the counter.”



The Council’s initiative complements the existing UK-wide Healthy Start Voucher Scheme, which entitles some mothers to continuing free vitamins as well as free fruit and vegetables.



For more information about taking Healthy Start Vitamins, visit www.walthamforest.gov.uk or speak to your Midwife or Health Visitor.




Notes to editors

Waltham Forest Council's public health charter aims to ensure that:


  • Every Pregnant woman and new born child has access to a free bottle of Healthy Start Vitamins to give their child the best start in Life

  • Every school and college has a named school nurse, providing regular drop in sessions and health checks in reception, year 6 and  mid-teens

  • Families can access new local services to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight , such as free swimming lessons for eligible children, and exercise classes available on referral for adults

  • Free contraception and sexual health advice is accessible to those who need it

  • People with drug or alcohol problems get the support they need to make a healthy recovery

  • Residents aged 40–74 are invited to a free health check every five years, which is designed to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia


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