ITV News readers have been sharing their views on the chief medical officer's suggestion of providing free vitamins for all children under the age of five.
– Dawn in Liverpool
[It would be a] waste of money because those parents who don't buy vitamins now probably still wouldn't give them to their children even if they were free. They need educating on a proper diet and getting kids off computer games and outside to play.
– Lallie in Jersey
I think it is a good idea for those who aren't inclined, or don't have the money to give their children a proper balanced diet. The other parents who have a choice and are better informed don't have to take it up. I think this is a necessary quick fix.
– Andrea in Merseyside
Why not [extend the scheme to] all children under 16?
England should be "profoundly ashamed" of the state of children's healthcare including the return of the Victorian-era disease rickets, the chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has said.
The disease affects bone development in children and can cause bone deformities like bowed legs. The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium.
It mostly disappeared from the Western world in the 1940s with the advent of Vitamin D additives in cereals and margarine, but is now on the rise in the UK.
Symptoms of rickets include painful bones, delayed growth and skeletal problems. If you suspect your child may be displaying these symptoms, consult your GP.
Levels of Vitamin D and calcium can be boosted by eating a diet rich in oil fish, eggs, dairy products and dark green vegetables, and by spending some time in sunlight.
The annual report by England's chief medical officer focuses on children's physical and mental health. Here are some of its key findings:
- UK is second-worst in western Europe for children's health
- More than 12 percent of toddlers are obese, as are more than 16 percent of boys and girls up to the age of 15
- The costs of childhood obesity could be as high as £700 per year
- 40 percent of children have some kind of vitamin D deficiency
- Only a quarter of children with clinical mental health disorders get help within the first three years, while three quarters of lifetime mental health disorders start before the age of 18
England's chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has said that there are five more child deaths in the UK every day than in Sweden.
She said that 40 percent of children in the UK have lower levels of vitamin D than they should have, partly as a result of not having enough exposure to sunlight.
Daybreak's Matt Barbet asked her whether free vitamins are enough:
NHS recommendations are for all youngsters aged six months to five years to be given daily vitamin drops, but parents have to pay for them unless they are part of the free Healthy Start programme.
Evidence suggests take-up of the vitamins is low among poorer families but even children in better-off families may not be not getting enough.
The Nice review comes as Professor Davies published a report on children's health, detailing the need to invest in young people.
It said reducing obesity by one percentage point in children could save the NHS £1 billion a year due to fewer long-term health problems.
All under-fives could get free vitamins under plans being considered by the Government.
At present, only low-income families qualify for vitamins on the NHS but rising fears about the number of children developing rickets - caused by a lack of vitamin D - has prompted a rethink.
England's chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has asked the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) to examine whether all children should receive drops or tablets containing vitamins A, C and D.