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Infant vitamin D supplementation prevents not just rickets but also hypocalcaemic seizures and cardiomyopathy (CMP). The BPSU survey (1) captures rickets incidence which, we feel compelled to highlight, represents only the tip of the iceberg of widespread vitamin D deficiency (VDD) in the population.
In the UK, child surveillance checks are led by general practitioners (GPs). Most GPs do not receive postgraduate paediatric training and have inadequate undergraduate paediatric exposure, as acknowledged by the RCPCH president: “by any stretch of the imagination, GP training in the UK in paediatrics is woefully inadequate” (2). Recognising rickets requires paediatric experience as exemplified by recent cases of VDD induced CMP- one child’s death was preceded by multiple unfruitful visits to GPs and casualty (3). As the BPSU survey reached out only to paediatricians and not GPs, the extent of underreporting and under diagnosis is likely huge, limiting comparison with countries where paediatricians oversee primary care. The conclusion that rickets incidence in the UK is lower than expected downplays the extent of the underlying public health crisis, particularly when a significant number of cases were excluded [table 2 of (1)]. The true disease burden is unravelled when family members of affected children are investigated (3).
Similar to previous studies, rickets incidence here is 90 to 166 fold higher in Asian and Black children compared to wh...
Similar to previous studies, rickets incidence here is 90 to 166 fold higher in Asian and Black children compared to white. As the proportion of ethnic minority in the UK continues to rise (14% in 2011 census) those at highest risk of VDD are failed most by inadequate prevention strategies (4).
Shockingly, 77% of reported cases were not on the Department of Health recommended vitamin D supplements demonstrating lack of policy implementation. Whilst we agree with the author’s recommendations on supplementation, vitamin D fortification of flour as a more cost-effective long term strategy should be seriously considered (5).
1. Julies P, Lynn RM, Pall K, Leoni M, Calder A, Mughal Z, et al. Nutritional rickets under 16 years : UK surveillance results. Arch Dis Child. 2020;
2. Modi N, Simon C. Child health care: Adequate training for all UK GPs is long overdue. Br J Gen Pract. 2016;66(646):228–9.
3. Uday S, Fratzl-Zelman N, Roschger P, Klaushofer K, Chikermane A, Saraff V, et al. Cardiac, bone and growth plate manifestations in hypocalcemic infants: revealing the hidden body of the vitamin D deficiency iceberg. BMC Pediatr. 2018 Dec;18(1):183.
4. Uday S, Högler W. Prevention of rickets and osteomalacia in the UK: political action overdue. Arch Dis Child. 2018;103(9):901–6.
5. Aguiar M, Andronis L, Pallan M, Högler W, Frew E. The economic case for prevention of population vitamin D deficiency: a modelling study using data from England and Wales. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2019; DOI:10.1038/s41430-019-0486-x