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New study finds many refugee mothers in Canada lack knowledge of vitamin D

Posted on: May 13, 2014   by  Vitamin D Council


A study published in the Journal of Transcultural Nursing has found that many refugee mothers in Canada are unaware of the importance of vitamin D and don’t supplement their infants with vitamin D.

Refugees seeking safety in other countries are often faced with the challenge of vitamin D deficiency. Many refugees move from areas in low latitudes to areas in higher latitudes. As a result, it is more difficult for them to produce vitamin D from sun exposure in their new environment, which increases their risk for vitamin D deficiency and its associated health outcomes.

In a recent study, researchers surveyed mothers in Canada from different backgrounds to determine their knowledge of vitamin D to better guide public health strategies.

The research team recruited 30 Canadian-born mothers, 35 immigrant mothers, and 29 refugee mothers to conduct a focus group. In total, 94 women who all had children between the ages of 0 and 3 years old participated in this focus group.

The researchers asked all of the mothers in the focus group a series of questions to encourage open discussion. These questions followed themes of infant feeding practices, knowledge of vitamin D, infant supplementation, and where health information was acquired.

In the focus group discussions, 83.3% of immigrant mothers and 80.7% of Canadian-born mothers stated that they supplemented their exclusively-breastfed infants with 400 IU/day of vitamin D. In contrast, 47.6% of refugee mothers stated that they supplemented their infants with vitamin D.

Furthermore, refugee mothers were more likely to state that they didn’t know anything about vitamin D when compared to Canadian-born and immigrant mothers.

“Targeted and culturally competent knowledge translation and practical aid may be required to effectively deliver coordinated health messaging about vitamin D to [refugees], a more vulnerable segment of the New Canadian population,” the researchers concluded.


Moffat, T. et al. Comparison of Infant Vitamin D Supplement Use Among Canadian-Born, Immigrant, and Refugee Mothers. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 2014.

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