March 25, 2015

Letter from the Director


Moving Research into Practice--in only 3 years,

not 15 or more!  A FIRST for us all.


The Protect our Children NOW! project launches on April 7th, 2015, to implement vitamin D testing and supplementation of pregnant women as standard of care. Specifically, it is to help them achieve a serum level of at least 40 ng/ml to aid in prevention of many comorbidities of pregnancy.


It took 3 years of re-analysis of the data, comparing similar sets of data, software development, community interface development and ongoing educational development.  With this, we have ...



  1. Insurance company, Select Health, that is actively supporting vitamin D
  2. Medical practice, the Medical University of South Carolina, putting this into the 'standard of care'
  3. Involvement of the public health department, DHEC, by participating in education of their clients and practitioners
  4. DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services, Medicaid) is covering the cost of the tests for their members as are other insurance providers in the area
  5. Online enrollment, chat room, social media as key to the changing paradigm


I am extremely honored to be working with each and every member of the GrassrootsHealth staff who has spent many, many hours on this endeavor, and, with each of the community implementation partners.  It is a joy to find so many people ready to take action NOW! for the health of a generation.  Please spread the word, look at how this can work in your community, let us know how we can help.  The detailed press release is below and much more information can be found on our web site




Carole Baggerly 

Director, GrassrootsHealth

A Public Health Promotion & Research Organization

Moving Research into Practice NOW!

Vitamin D Project Aims to Improve Birth Outcomes in Charleston and Columbia


Vitamin D testing, monitoring and supplements to be available to pregnant women at no cost


Charleston, S.C. - GrassrootsHealth, an international nonprofit public health promotion organization, will launch its Protect Our Children (POC) NOW! vitamin D demonstration project April 7 in the Charleston area at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and will soon follow with a second phase in Columbia. POC will be available at no cost to a minimum of 500 pregnant women at 17 weeks or less gestation who live within these two service areas. The project will include patient and health care provider education, screening and vitamin D supplements.


"We're very excited to launch Protect Our Children NOW! in South Carolina," said Carole Baggerly, founder and director of GrassrootsHealth. "This is a wonderful opportunity to trumpet the importance of vitamin D to pregnant mothers and physicians. We aim to reduce the incidence of preterm births, as well as positively influence the health of pregnant moms and lower the prevalence of early childhood diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency."


Pregnant moms can participate from the comfort and convenience of their own homes by enrolling online starting April 7. Enrollment will include completion of a health questionnaire and informed consent form. Obstetricians are required to complete two continuing medical education courses provided by MUSC and POC at no cost in order for their patients to participate in the project.


Once enrolled, participants will visit their MUSC physician to complete a blood test. Upon reviewing the results of the test, participants will receive vitamin D supplements, compliments of Bio-Tech Pharmacal, as well as educational materials to guide their supplement intake. Further blood tests will measure vitamin D serum levels at 24 weeks and 36 weeks gestation.


Participants will get feedback on their vitamin D levels, as well as other health issues, via a new health portal, HYLIONTM, available at the POC web site. Additional features of HYLION will include a chat room for connecting with other pregnant moms, as well as ongoing education and interactive activities focused on vitamin D and health for each stage of the pregnancy. GrassrootsHealth will also organize informational sessions and support groups for pregnant women enrolled in the program.


"The South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative (SCBOI) encourages collaboration among providers, insurers, community organizations and other stakeholders to work toward stronger, healthier babies in our State," said BZ (Melanie) Giese, Director, SCBOI for the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. "Programs such as POC that focus on keeping moms healthy and giving babies the best start at life, may help SCBOI achieve its mission to reduce infant mortality and the number of low birth weight babies."


GrassrootsHealth has enlisted several project implementation partners including MUSC, First Choice by Select Health of South Carolina and Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers (ECCHC). Select Health, the first Medicaid managed care organization in the nation to join the POC effort, will educate its First Choice health plan members and providers about the benefits of vitamin D.


"Select Health is pleased to lend support to this program because it's important not only for our First Choice plan members, but also for pregnant women and babies across our state," said Rebecca Engelman, market president at Select Health. "We have a long history of partnering to ensure the health of moms and newborns. We work closely with the March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Initiative, as well as the SCBOI, and we're excited that Protect Our Children NOW! offers another approach in the fight to reduce preterm births."


MUSC's departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics have partnered to support POC, and will refer qualifying patients into the program. Carol Wagner, M.D., professor in the department of Pediatrics at MUSC and lead researcher for this project at GrassrootsHealth, will help provide online continuing medical education modules to engage medical faculty and residents in the need for vitamin D screening and treatment. This educational approach hopes to achieve lasting changes in obstetric practice, patient education and patient behavior.


"Pregnant women with vitamin D deficiencies may be at greater risk for various problems and complications, both for themselves and their babies," said Wagner. "It's imperative for pregnant women and the medical community at large to recognize the importance of vitamin D in overall health."


South Carolina has struggled with one of the highest preterm birth rates in the nation for many years now. According to the March of Dimes, South Carolina's current preterm birth rate is 13.8 percent, as compared with the national average of 11.4. A randomized trial conducted by Wagner and Bruce Hollis, Ph.D., achieved a preterm birth rate of 6.5 percent with vitamin D serum levels greater than 38 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL). Their findings were published in the January 2013 edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.


"We're aiming to help pregnant women achieve a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/mL, which is the same level regularly achieved by outdoor workers," said Wagner. "It is the level that optimizes the hormone vitamin D as reported by our randomized trial, and the level at which approximately 50 percent of preterm births were reduced based on a 2015 study by Bodnar, et al that appeared in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology."


According to the Wagner and Hollis vitamin D studies in which ECCHC took part, vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy was shown to reduce preterm birth and be safe. Greatest improvements were seen among Hispanic and African-American populations.


"We've studied vitamin D's impact on preterm birth and we know it's highly effective. We're most excited about the opportunity to help integrate testing and supplementation into medical practice, making it a standard of care," said Eric M. Schlueter, M.D., chief medical officer at ECCHC. "I expect Protect Our Children NOW! to produce best practices that can be replicated nationwide."


View Full Press Release 


Video of the Week 


Public Health Initiative: Meeting the Vitamin D Requirements of the Pregnant Woman and Improving Health Outcomes; NICHD Vitamin D Lactation Summary Data
By Carol Wagner, MD
Medical University of South Carolina

Dr. Carol Wagner Carol L. Wagner, MD, is a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. She received her doctorate at the Boston University School of Medicine. She is board certified in pediatrics, neonatal-perinatal medicine. She is a practicing neonatologist at the Children's Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. Her clinical interests include: growth factors in human milk, human milk gut maturation, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, international health and vitamin D.


What are the implications of a women being vitamin D deficient? Dr. Wagner describes many of the health outcomes caused by vitamin D deficiency for both early childhood and the mother's health.


Dr. Wagner and Dr. Bruce Hollis conducted the Thrasher study in 2011 with over 500 women in South Carolina. She goes into detail about how the study was conducted, the types of women in the study, how they were supplemented, and the outcomes. The Thrasher study is one of the few studies where a higher than standard supplement dose was given (4000 IU/day) and this presentation explains how that was accomplished. The outcomes of this study were very significant and if moved into standard practice would change how pregnant women are treated.


Dr. Wagner was also involved with two studies that focused on vitamin D in breast milk. There are many that say that vitamin D is not transferred to the baby through breast milk - but this is true only when the mother is deficient in vitamin D! When the mother has sufficient, daily input of vitamin D, it is transferred in the breast milk.


 Editor's Letter 


I am excited about this project for a couple of reasons. First, I am a mother of three and I have seen the effects of vitamin D sufficiency on my children. I have seen pregnant mothers want to do the best for their children. I am excited that something so easy (supplementation, education, sunshine) can make such a difference.


Secondly, the scientist in me is excited about this particular project. It is time-bound (< 10 months). It has concrete results (a baby is either preterm or they are not). That means that the results should be easy to see. We expect to help create a revolution in vitamin D and pregnancy. Every insurance company and OB will want to make sure their mothers are vitamin D sufficient (> 40 ng/ml).



Have a great week. 


Susan Siljander       

Marketing Director, GrassrootsHealth

A Public Health Promotion & 

Research Organization  

Moving Research into Practice NOW!

Order Your Home Vitamin D Test TODAY!
Your participation in this project funds all the GrassrootsHealth research and promotion.
Breaking News!
Carole Baggerly interviews Dr. Carol Wagner, MUSC about Protect our Children NOW!

Watch Now
"This is a wonderful opportunity to trumpet the importance of vitamin D to pregnant mothers and physicians."
- Carole Baggerly

"Programs, such as POC that focus on keeping moms healthy and giving babies the best start at life, help SCBOI achieve its mission to reduce infant mortality and low birth weight babies."
- BZ (Melanie) Giese
Director of the Birth Outcomes Initiative for the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Charleston, SC

According to the March of Dimes 2014 score card:

-  1 in 9 live births are preterm

-  450,000 babies were preterm in 2014

-  In 2007, the US spent approx. $ 26.2 billion on premature births

What if we could reduce this by 50%?
-  Only 1 in 18 babies would be preterm (50% reduction)
-  Only 225,000 babies would be preterm

-  Reduction in cost by $13 billion

Disease Incidence Prevention (DIP) Chart
Click on the chart above to see the complete DIP chart for pregnancy and children's outcomes.

This chart is great to share with your doctor or friends - to explain how a vitamin D replete body can make for a healthier pregnancy and child.
Protect our Children NOW! information & downloads
Web site

Vitamin D FAQ for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and babies
View now

Nutritional vitamin D status during pregnancy: reasons for concern
Summary of standard of care for pregnancy with vitamin D and a commentary of what is lacking.
Bruce Hollis, PhD
Carol Wagner, MD
View paper

Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: Double-blind, randomized clinical trial of safety and effectiveness
4000 IU/day is proven safe and recommended for pregnancy
Bruce Hollis, PhD
Carol Wagner, MD
View Paper

For health care providers or other insurers interested in learning more about POC, GrassrootsHealth will host introductory webinars starting in April. Signup for Notification 


Those interested in program updates may sign up by contacting: Jen Aliano  
(760) 710-9305 or
(800) 324-8139  [email protected] Visit web page

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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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