Healthy start

Don’t miss out on your FREE Healthy Start vitamins!


Why should we take Healthy Start vitamins?

These contain vitamin D, which offers protection against rickets and is important for the development of strong, healthy bones.  Everyone needs this vitamin but especially growing children and women who are pregnant or have a child under the age of 1.

Can’t we get enough vitamin D through diet?

Very few foods contain vitamin D.  Most vitamin D is formed in the body by sunlight acting on exposed skin.   We don’t get much sunshine in the UK and tend to cover up because of the cold.  The best way to be sure we are getting enough Vitamin D is to take Healthy Start vitamins.

What happens if we don’t get enough vitamin D?

Vitamin D is important for strong bones, particularly during stages of rapid bone growth such as the early years. Growing children can develop rickets which causes curved bones, and so can slow progression to  walking, and general development.  If pregnant women don’t have enough in their bodies their babies are born with low levels of this important vitamin and this can cause them in some cases to have fits. Rarely, this leads to death.

It is not easy to get enough vitamin D from food sources, and we get most of our requirement from the action of sunlight on the skin. However:

  • The UVB rays needed to produce vitamin D are only available in Birmingham and areas further north between the months of April and October, and in the middle of the day (11am to 3pm).
  • Modern working patterns, use of sun screen, and changes to children’s playing habits, as well as cultural dress which covers most of the skin, all mean that Birmingham residents are not likely to be producing enough vitamin D.
  • Age and skin pigmentation also make the process of vitamin D formation less effective.

Avoid rickets by:

  • Taking your Healthy Start vitamins for Women in pregnancy and until your child is 1 year old
  • Giving Healthy Start Children’s vitamin drops to your children until they reach age 4
  • Getting some sunlight on your and your children’s skin whilst taking care not to get sun burnt
  • Eating foods with vitamin D in them such as oily fish, eggs (well-cooked), margarine and fortified breakfast cereals.

What is being done about it in Birmingham?

In an effort to prevent cases of rickets, Birmingham has introduced a citywide policy of FREE vitamin supplements for women from the start of pregnancy until their child is 12 months old, and for all children under four. Healthy Start Vitamins for Women and Children's Vitamin Drops are available from Health Visiting teams, some Health Centres and Children’s Centres and some pharmacies (look out for the poster in the window).

To find out the nearest place for you to pick up your FREE vitamins, download this document, and look for your area, Vitamin D Sites Handout Updated January 2016

For other age groups, some sun exposure without sun screen is recommended, although care should be taken not to burn. Oily fish is the best dietary source of vitamin D and it is recommended that everyone includes a portion of oily fish a week, for its protective effects against heart disease. For those who don’t go out with exposed skin, or who are house bound, a daily supplement is recommended and there are many suitable supplements available over the counter.

How to get Healthy Start Vitamins for Mums and Children

If you work in an early years setting or come into contact with pregnant women and families with children under 4 then don’t forget to remind them about their entitlement to Healthy Start vitamins.

Remember in Birmingham you do not have to be financially eligible for Healthy Start to obtain the vitamins as they are FREE regardless of income.  Healthy Start vitamins are free for pregnant women, women with a child under 1 and children under 4 who are registered with a Birmingham GP.

Ways to promote

  • Include an article or news bite in your next newsletter
  • Add posters and information on to an eye-catching display.
  • Find out your local Healthy Start vitamin stockists and make families aware.  For a list of vitamin stockists please contact 0121 446 1021.
  • Have a conversation with families about the vitamins, this could be at a meeting or during a group session.
  • Share information with your colleagues so they have the up to date information too.
  • Share information on your employers social media accounts
  • Keep a stock of up to date leaflets for families to take away.
  • Add posters and information on to an eye-catching display.
  • You can order leaflets/posters in several languages online at telephone 0300 123 1002 quoting the title and reference number of the item you require
  • Have a conversation with your families about the scheme.  This could be, at a 1-2-1 meeting or during a group session.
  • Put a link to Healthy Start on your website

Ensure everyone understands that even those not eligible to the national Healthy  Start scheme ARE entitled to the vitamins, if registered with a Birmingham GP.

Extra Benefits to Healthy Start for Families

Did you know that with Healthy Start you get free vouchers each week to spend on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula? You also get free vitamins.

Each voucher is worth £3.10 so can really help with spreading the cost of the weekly shop.

  • If you are pregnant you get 1 voucher a week worth £3.10.
  • For each baby under the age of 1 you get 2 vouchers a week worth a total of £6.20.
  • For each child aged over 1 and under 4, your family gets 1 voucher a week worth £3.10.

If you are pregnant or have children under the age of 4 you could qualify if you are on benefits or under 18 and pregnant.

Applying for Healthy Start is really easy.  For more information and to see who qualifies, check out

Alternatively speak to your midwife, Health Visitor or GP or local Children’s Centre.