The Role of Vitamins & Supplements in Public Health
Post by Ruth Joanna
Perhaps in your journey towards a healthier lifestyle, you have already asked yourself: “Which vitamins and supplements are right for me?” or “Am I taking enough of them?” Previously here at Roex, we highlighted how vitamins are a type of supplement, which are designed to enhance the nutritional value of your diet. But did you know that taking vitamins and supplements is more than just a personal concern? They play an important role in the field of medicine, as well. So today, we will look more closely at their place in public health.
Optimizing public nutrition
Every country publishes their own Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) to specify the nutritional requirements of their population. This helps in reducing the risk of deficiencies and gearing the public towards health, and public health campaigns are anchored on DRIs.
In the US, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) created standards for nutrient intake depending on the age, sex, and life-stage group of the population. Just two years ago, the NASEM updated the DRIs for sodium and potassium, in response to new evidence showing that reducing sodium intake and supplementing potassium can decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Further modifications should be expected as more studies prove the impact of supplements on disease risk.
Moreover, reports by the CDC have emphasized the role of micronutrients like iron and zinc in one’s nutrition. These are not produced by the body, and must be consumed through one's diet. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the population is at risk because of low micronutrient intake, so the organization has formulated interventions to make sure these deficiencies are addressed.
Managing public demand
At its core, public health deals with protecting and improving the health of communities through policymaking, education, and research. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, public health has become even more critical.
Today, there is an increased demand for professionals who are well versed in the field. Fortunately, despite being in the middle of a pandemic, colleges and universities are launching great online courses to help meet this need. Maryville University’s online general health studies program teaches its students skills in various non-clinical fields such as public health, management, and education. They are eventually encouraged to enter fields that can influence public health, such as government and community health centers. Meanwhile, the University of South Florida also offers an online degree in public health with concentrations that include biostatistics, epidemiology, and emergency preparedness.
However, while these universities offer quality education, they still need time to produce excellent graduates. The demand for public health professionals is at its peak right now, and a surefire way of managing this call is by strengthening people’s defenses through vitamins and supplements. As nutrition is linked to immunity, poorly nourished people are at a greater risk of contracting infections. Because of this, pharmacies, health agencies, and even private companies have started handing out free vitamins and supplements. These include the Good Neighbor Pharmacy, which expanded its Free Vitamin Program to include patients of every age, and Celebrate Vitamins, which delivers free vitamins nationwide.
Reducing healthcare costs
While public health campaigns can temporarily address the issue of poor nutrition, they are not viable solutions for long-term healthcare issues, especially as the need for hospital facilities — and the professionals to run them — become urgent. Worryingly, the United States has one of the most expensive healthcare costs in the world, with a study from Northwestern University pointing to a lack of competition, not cost of living, as the main cause.
However, researchers from the Lewin Group found out that taking nutritional supplements can dramatically decrease healthcare expenses by reducing illnesses and chronic diseases. They looked at the effect of sufficient vitamin intake, like calcium, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids, on various health conditions, including osteoporosis, congenital defects, and heart diseases. These improvements can lead to significantly decreasing the number of hospitalizations and saving up billions in funds and lives.
No innovation is ever too small in the field of medicine. Even taking vitamins is a matter of public concern, and hopefully, this encourages you to reject the misconception that supplements are just an expensive addition to your lifestyle. A small pill can save the lives of many — and it starts with each one of us.
Specially written for Roex By BINscience.com
By: Ruth Joanna
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