Temasek Foundation today announced that it will provide over 100,000 bottles of Vitamin D3 tablets to low income families and seniors, as well as expectant mothers who have been assessed to be suitable to take Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a key role in supporting the immune system2, muscle function and, together with calcium, helps to keep bones strong and healthy2 .
Commonly known as “Sunshine Vitamin”, Vitamin D3 is made in the skin when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Even though Singapore has reasonably consistent daylight hours all year round, studies suggest that many Singaporeans are deficient in Vitamin D3-6. This may have worsened with more people staying indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The public should seek advice from healthcare professionals if they think they are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D has two main forms – D2 which is derived from plant sources and fortified foods, while Vitamin D3 is produced by the skin upon sun exposure, and is also obtained from animal sources or from fortified foods. Vitamin D3 is proven to be more effective than Vitamin D2 in raising serum 25(OH)D concentrations7, which is the clinical indicator of Vitamin D status.
Temasek Foundation will be rolling out a public education campaign to raise awareness on the importance of getting enough Vitamin D. The #StrongerWithSunshine campaign will feature a microsite which includes personal experiences from community influencers on how they boost their Vitamin D levels with regular outdoor activities and good nutrition.
Temasek Foundation also commissioned the nutrition and health arm of German multinational company, BASF, to develop a convenient melt-on-tongue Vitamin D3 formulation. The supplements come in bottles of 100 tablets that have a dosage of 400 International Units (IU) per tablet. A bottle is roughly equivalent to two months’ supply for an adult.
From March 15 to March 28, Singapore residents with Blue or Orange Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) cards, or Public Assistance recipients, are eligible to collect a bottle of Vitamin D3 supplements at participating Guardian, Unity and Watsons pharmacies, subject to assessment by pharmacists.
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) will also provide the supplements to about 5,000 expectant mothers who are receiving antenatal care. Separately, SATA CommHealth will provide the supplements to about 1,500 vulnerable seniors through its Doctors-On-Wheels programme, Homecare and Rehabilitation Services, Community Hub in Fernvale and six medical centres situated island-wide.
This programme is the latest of many Stay Prepared COVID-19 initiatives by Temasek Foundation, the aims of which are to enhance resilience and support communities locally and internationally during the pandemic.
Vitamin D supports the immune system and keeps bones and muscles strong
Recent scientific publications 8-9 have highlighted the role of good nutrition and sufficient intake of Vitamin D in supporting a well-functioning immune system, which is important to protect against viral infections.
A local study on elderly hip fracture patients found that more than 50% were Vitamin D deficient6.
Dr Cheryl Glenn, SATA CommHealth Medical Director, said, “Ageing causes bones and muscles to weaken which in turn leads to issues such as higher risk to falls. Vitamin D is especially important among seniors as it keeps their bones and muscles strong, allowing them to lead healthy and independent lives.”
Ms Tina Low, Vice President, Global Business Management, BASF Human Nutrition said, “BASF Human Nutrition is a strong advocate that the right nutrients catered to different target groups are essential to keep healthy. We’re proud to be a partner in this project, providing Vitamin D to help support the immune system among vulnerable groups in Singapore.
“We’ve formulated the Vitamin D tablets according to recommended intake levels, backed by scientific rationale, and with the objective of decreasing deficiency among Singaporeans. The melt-on-tongue formulation also makes it easy to consume the supplements.”
Many Singaporeans are Vitamin D deficient
Various studies extending beyond the one cited above measuring deficiency in the elderly suggest that the deficiency extends throughout the wider community, to varying degrees3-6. Many people in Singapore are accustomed to protecting themselves from the sun by a combination of wearing hats, using sunscreen, staying in the shade, wearing long sleeves and using umbrellas.
“We see a high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women globally and in Singapore,” said Professor Jerry Chan, Senior Consultant, Department of Reproductive Medicine, KKH. “It is important for pregnant women to get an adequate amount of Vitamin D as it is proven to reduce the risk of complications in pregnancies such as preterm birth and low birth weight in infants.”
Ms Woon Saet Nyoon, Chief Executive at Temasek Foundation Cares, said, “The benefits of Vitamin D or Sunshine Vitamin have been in the shadows for a while. We hope this #StrongerWithSunshine campaign will inform Singaporeans about the importance of having sufficient Vitamin D. With just some outdoor exercise every day and diet choices; you can improve your immunity and better protect yourself.
“We would also like to thank BASF, KKH, SATA CommHealth, Guardian, Unity and Watsons pharmacies for their advice and support in making this initiative possible.”
Temasek Foundation COVID-19 initiatives
Over the past year, Temasek Foundation has been working with multiple partners to provide support in and outside Singapore, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Across the community, masks and sanitisers have been distributed, including four rounds of reusable StayMasked distributions and one round of BYOB zero-alcohol sanitiser distribution.
An early initiative in Singapore to encourage hand hygiene was the #BYOBclean sanitiser initiative in March last year, where Temasek Foundation partnered People’s Association, corporates, unions, universities and community organisations to provide 500ml of zero-alcohol hand sanitiser to every household in Singapore.
The second #BYOBclean zero-alcohol sanitiser initiative will be rolled out in mid-April 2021. Sanitisers may be collected from vending machines at community centres islandwide, using customised QR codes that will be printed on the March copy of households’ SP Group utilities bills, or using account numbers. March bills will be sent out between March 1 and April 10.
Other community efforts in Singapore also included the setting up of a web portal, MyMentalHealth (stayprepared.sg/mymentalhealth), with specially-curated articles to encourage mindfulness and mental well-being during this stressful period; partnerships and funding to provide 414,000 meals through various meal support programmes to the vulnerable; distribution of about 1 million face shields to frontline workers including those in the F&B and hairdressing sector; and the provision of care packs including oximeters, sanitisers and masks to various vulnerable community segments.
More recently, Temasek Foundation has facilitated more than 200,000 swab tests for priority groups such as migrant workers, essential and frontline staff, stallholders, retail assistants and town council staff in our residential precincts to proactively and pre-emptively keep our community safe.
Besides taking care of our local community, Temasek recognises the need to ensure that communities beyond Singapore are well-equipped against this pandemic. Through Temasek Foundation, we contributed Personal Protection Equipment, ventilators and diagnostics such as test kits to healthcare partners in some 40 countries beyond Singapore.
Together with the World Food Programme and Singapore Airlines, Temasek Foundation supported efforts to transport essential medical supplies and other health and humanitarian items to points of need around the world. In addition, we also supported various food distribution initiatives together with our portfolio companies such as gategroup in the US and Zomato in India, to provide access to meals for the underserved communities that have been disrupted by COVID-19.
For more information about other Stay Prepared initiatives, visit stayprepared.sg
For more information on #StrongerWithSunshine, visit stayprepared.sg/stronger-with-sunshine