As many readers know, studies have found alarmingly high rates of vitamin D deficiency among young children around the world. For instance, a recent study out of the Netherlands found that only 50% of Dutch children adequately supplement with vitamin D. How do we solve such a dilemna?
Professor Jascha de Nooijer and colleagues at the Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands recently investigated the effectiveness of the strategy “implementation intention” for parents supplementing their children with vitamin D, to see if the strategy could improve the regularity of supplementing. Implementation intention is a strategy to self-regulate action by implementing a, “if strategy X happens, then do action Y.”
The researcher’s recruited 171 parents with children aged 0-4 to fill out an electronicsurvey consisting of questions about child characteristics, vitamin D supplementation habits, and intention to give vitamin D supplementation, after receiving information about vitamin D. The parents were then randomly assigned to two groups: one that received “implementation intention instructions” and one that did not.
Parents in the intervention group were then asked to formulate an implementation plan. A follow-up questionnaire assessed supplementation behavior and intention to give vitamin D in both groups. Participants in the intervention group were asked 5 additional questions regarding whether they could remember their plan and whether they had executed the plan.
At the end of the qualitative trial, contrary to expectations, the implementation intentions did not work, at least statistically. The researchers explain, “…although almost all parents have a high intention to supply their child with vitamin D, only 50% of children receive adequate supplementation. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that the implementation intentions used here did not result in improvements…”
These results contrast with earlier findings that implementation intentions positively influenced various health behaviors in a study examining vitamin C supplementation behavior.
The researchers offer several explanations for the lack of significant effects of the intervention in the study. They suggest the intervention may be too simple; if they could encourage parents to think seriously about a realistic plan, follow through may have increased. They also mention, “the study (n=177) sample could have been too small to detect differences between the groups.”
“This study suggests that merely asking parents to formulate a plan towards giving their child daily vitamin D supplementation is insufficient to improve vitamin D intake among young children to desired levels.”
The Vitamin D Council asks you, what approach do you think would be most effective to get parents to supplement their kids with vitamin D?