February: A Month of Love for Vitamin A
Written by Vina Dina Fitriana, Content Writer Intern Project Child Indonesia
February is known as the month of love because on 14th of February some of us celebrate Valentine’s Day. But in Indonesia, especially in the medical field, February is not only a month of love. This month also commemorates the supplementation of vitamin A for children in the age of 6-59 months and postpartum mothers. Administration of vitamin A capsule is one of the public health strategies to prevent and overcome vitamin A deficiency in toddlers. The delivery of vitamin A capsule is a routine health service, given every six months in February and August.
Doses of Vitamin A Capsule
Supplementation of vitamin A capsule is given every 6 months in a large dose because vitamin A is well-absorbed, can be stored in the liver and able to be used as needed for approximately the next 4 to 6 months. There are two types of capsule, the blue capsule which has 100.000 International Units (IU) of vitamin A for infants 6-11 months of age, and the red capsule has 200.000 IU of vitamin A for children 12-59 months of age. The capsules are delivered in health care services like integrated health care centres (posyandu), hospitals, public health centres, etc.
Why Children Should Take Vitamin A Supplementation Every 6 Months
The aim of vitamin A supplementation is to prevent vitamin A deficiency which might cause visual impairment (night blindness) and increase the risk of infections and mortality. Vitamin A has many important roles for children. It is essential to help their vision process when adapting from a bright place to a dark place, avoid children from having xerosis conjunctiva and bitot’s spot and plays roles in the immune system, growth, and development. Hence, parents need to pay attention to the adequacy of vitamin A and take vitamin A supplementation every 6 months for children in the age of 6-59 months.
Vitamins That Our Children Need
Besides vitamin A, our children need 12 other types of vitamins which are important for their bodies. There are 13 types of vitamins that the human body needs, and they are divided into 2 groups, fat soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamin consists of:
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A can be found in liver, egg yolk, green vegetables and yellow or orange fruits. Vitamin A has many important roles for our body and has been mentioned before
- Vitamin D
Our body can get vitamin D from sunlight and food such as egg, butter and fish liver oil. Vitamin D plays a role in bone formation and builds strong bones.
- Vitamin E
The main function of vitamin E is as a fat soluble antioxidant and mostly found in plant oil, especially seeds oil like soybean seed oil, corn oil, sunflower seed oil, etc.
- Vitamin K
Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting and bone formation. It’s found in liver, green leafy vegetables, peas, chickpeas, and broccoli.
The second group of vitamins is water soluble vitamins, it consists of:
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C has so many functions for the body such as in wounds healing, helping the absorption of calcium and iron, preventing infection and as an antioxidant to prevent cancer and heart disease. Vitamin C is most common in fruits and vegetables, particularly those which have sour flavor.
- Vitamin B
There are 8 kinds of vitamin B, vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic Acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), dan B12 (cobalamin). Each of them has different functions for our body.
A human’s body has a complex mechanism to survive and carry out its functions as it should. Vitamins themselves are substances that are slightly needed by the body but have many important roles. Vitamin adequacy in children needs to be highly considered because children are prone to infection which can cause mortality and still in their growth and development. Therefore, parents are expected to pay more attention to what their children consume and how their food is made. In this month of love, let’s give attention to our children’s health and nutritional needs as a gift to express our love!
Adriani, M & Bambang W. 2012. Pengantar Gizi Masyarakat. Jakarta: Kencana
Almatsier, Sunita. 2010. Prinsip Ilmu Gizi Dasar. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka
WHO. Guideline: Vitamin A Supplementation in Infants and Children 6–59 Months of Age. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2011