The aims of this project were to:
Ascertain local perceptions about Vitamin D.
Raise awareness about Vitamin D and its health effects.
Explore how health information is obtained by members of the local community.
Use local views to help direct future public health policy.
Methods Mothers attending a local community centre were invited to participate in an interactive discussion and teaching session with local paediatricians about Vitamin D. Data were collected on demographics of the group, awareness of Vitamin D sources, and where they obtained health information. Participants were asked to feedback on the information gained from the session. Responses were collated and thematic analysis used to identify key themes.
47 people attended the focus group. The group was mainly female and aged between 12–84 years. 33 (70%) participants were South Asian. The remainder were Black African or White. At the start of the session, 23 (50%) participants were aware of Vitamin D. 19 (40%) participants were aware of its sources and only 8 (17%) knew about the consequences of insufficiency. 12 (25%) of the group spent less than 1 h in the sun daily. Three major themes emerged during and following the session from the participants:
Improved awareness of sources of Vitamin D.
Improved knowledge about the consequences Vitamin D deficiency.
Increased awareness of national Vitamin D recommendations.
Participants suggested word-of-mouth, community websites and the local Gujarati newspapers as preferred information sources. GP and NHS branded materials were perceived as reliable and accurate sources. Participants reported that conflicting information given by health professionals and the use of jargon caused confusion and worry. The group reported specifically not being told about the importance of Vitamin D in breastfeeding infants and children.
Conclusion A community based focus group discussion is an informative way to explore perceptions about Vitamin D. Public health policy needs to be tailored according to the most accepted means of message delivery to this local community from different ethnic backgrounds.