December 24, 2014

Letter from the Director


This holiday let's give the gift of knowledge and prevention!


Knowledge - that proper amount of circulating vitamin D, 40-60 ng/ml, can prevent a majority of diseases. (See our Disease Incidence Prevention Chart.)


Prevention - act on this information by either getting sensible sun exposure and/or supplementing.


I am at the point in this journey, having been on it since 2007, that all of my family is aware of the importance of vitamin D and tests regularly through D*action! But I can always influence more. During our seminar last week we gave away free blood tests between the first and second day of the seminar. Many of you will get your results soon. Was it surprising?


Measurement is so powerful. Think about giving this gift, you can sponsor someone to join D*action. With that gift you not only give them data they need to make preventive choices, but you

also enlarge the scientific information, allowing GrassrootsHealth to get more data and be better heard as we fight to move the research we know is sound, into practice!


Also consider GrassrootsHealth, as you make your final giving for the year. This money will go to fund education, vitamin D tests, public projects, information to help others - all leading to moving this great research into practice!


I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.


Carole Baggerly 

Director, GrassrootsHealth

A Public Health Promotion & Research Organization

Moving Research into Practice NOW!

How do you share your gift?  


Many of you could not make our seminar, Vitamin D and Public Health - Integrating Sunshine, Supplements and Measurement for Optimal Health, on December 9-10 in San Diego. This week we will summarize a talk entitled "Vitamin D and Public Health Practice". It was given by Mary Pittaway, MA, RD, of the Global Clinical Advisor-Health Promotion for Special Olympics. She recently retired from her position as Nutrition Services Manager for the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) in Montana.


Mary shared that in her role at MCCHD, they considered the entire community of Missoula as their patient. In public health it is important to try and prevent health issues, not necessarily to treat sick people. This is very different from a doctor's point of view - as they see individuals and try to make them better one at a time. Mary used the keyword "upstream" to describe a practice of public health officials. They try to find the core cause of many health issues and address that cause, in order to improve health and reduce overall community health care costs. Here is an article in Huffington Post that talks about this "upstream" practice. 


Recognizing the importance of vitamin D for many aspects of public health, Mary and her colleagues have used vitamin D sufficiency as a model for upstream health in Missoula. Here are some great tools she has made in order to better communicate with the public about the importance of vitamin D. The goal is to quickly understand and act on the problem.




She uses the analogy of the three bears. Are you getting too much vitamin D? Too little? Or is it just right? When you make this statement in conjunction with our Disease Incidence and Prevention Chart it becomes very clear that it is optimal to keep your vitamin D blood level between 40-60 ng/ml.





Another analogy that works great in Missoula is gardening. Vitamin D is like compost to health - it is required. It makes a good garden. Vitamin D helps over 2000 cell processes in the body - thus helping the body function properly and alleviate disease before it starts. These pictures are great!


After we agree that each of us needs enough vitamin D (40-60 ng/ml) in the blood for healthy function, then how do you proceed? Mary's next step was to encourage everyone on her public health staff and those that worked with the public daily, to be tested. Why? Because it is eye opening. Many of you have had your first vitamin D test - wasn't it lower than you thought? That information, coupled with the Disease Incidence Prevention Chart quickly gets everyone asking, "How do I get to 50 ng/ml?" Then the discussion becomes how to obtain vitamin D in your blood.





Many people think that you can get enough vitamin D through milk and a daily multi-vitamin. This is a great slide to show how much milk you would have to drink a day if that is how you want to get your vitamin D. Would you want to drink all that? These kinds of graphic tools can be developed to emphasize a health promotion point. They involve translating science into real life behaviors and they get us all  thinking about how to make positive changes.


Mary was able to obtain vitamin D supplement donations through vendors and small grants. Using these donations, Missoula has run different programs including one where they gave out a free family supply of vitamin D to those that came in with their vitamin D test results. This influenced the medical community, as they became aware of how low the public's general serum levels were. (Remember knowledge first, act second!) Another effect was community acceptance that much higher doses of supplements are needed to maintain healthy blood levels of vitamin D. The community norms around vitamin D changed, as the conversation moved from skepticism to acceptance of this opportunity to improve our community's health.


The basic research on Vitamin D is in, facts are known and it's time to share this wealth of knowledge. Opportunities to change norms around vitamin D related behaviors exist in all communities; e.g. safe sun exposure, baseline testing and effective supplementation.Mary's  presentation described how one county public health department promoted vitamin D testing with appropriate supplementation as an initiative to mobilize a community to action to enhance public health.


Editor's Note


I loved the end of Mary's talk. It ended with this quote:


"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together"       - African proverb


I thought it really exemplified both what GrassrootsHealth is trying to do and the public health arena. It might have hit home with me also because I do like to go fast. But, I have found, that sometimes going fast isn't always the best solution.


How many more people can we bring into this journey? One year for the holidays I gave all of my extended family a letter and some vitamin D. The letter explained what I had learned and that I loved them and wanted the best health for them. I encouraged them to get tested and provided some 5,000 IU vitamin D (which was hard to get at the time). I can't say it was 100% effective, but I brought a few more into the fold.


What are you doing to increase our impact?


Susan Siljander       


Marketing Director, GrassrootsHealth

A Public Health Promotion & 

Research Organization  

Moving Research into Practice NOW!


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Disease Incidence Prevention Chart
Find out how vitamin D can prevent common diseases
View PDF


Rowing Together: How Public Health Supports the 'Upstream' Doctor

Article in Huffington Post

April 2014

View Here 

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You can prevent disease if just one more person finds out about the preventative properties of vitamin D and starts moving their blood serum levels to 40-60 ng/ml. 


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