The Roche Column

The vital importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important building block for human health and is mainly produced in the skin by exposure to sunlight. This vitamin is the main regulatory body that balances the bone calcium level and therefore enhances bone development and mineralization of the skeleton. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency afflicts approximately one billion individuals worldwide. Although the Middle East and Africa are regions with regular sunlight throughout the year, their populations have a high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency.

This year, Roche Diagnostics Middle East joined the 4th International Conference on Vitamin D Deficiency and its Clinical Implications in Abu Dhabi and had the opportunity to discuss the issue with Dr Afrozul Haq, PhD, Chairman of the Conference and Scientific Committee, Principal Scientist, Research and Development Division at VPS Healthcare in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Is Vitamin D enough of a problem that public health measures should be taken?

I believe it is an important problem that we should continue to bring it forward to the public’s attention. The impact of Vitamin D deficiency on the human body is important and affects multiple areas – from muscles and bones to levels of energy and mood. If our habits continue and we are exposed to less and less sunshine, more people will be affected by Vitamin D deficiency and this will undoubtedly be reflected on the healthcare system. That is why it is important to raise awareness and educate the public in order for us to prevent Vitamin D deficiency.

With the abundance of sunshine in the Middle East region, what do you think is the reason behind Vitamin D deficiency in this part of the world?

I believe our modern lifestyle habits and, a combination of other factors, are the reason behind why more and more people are experiencing Vitamin D deficiency in the Middle East, and around the world as well. We continue to work and spend the majority of our times indoors; many start and finish their working day without seeing the sun and that is bound to have an impact on their bodies. We cannot produce Vitamin D on ourselves and, thus, need to integrate outdoors activities in our busy schedules as much as possible to ensure our bodies absorb the necessary levels of Vitamin D to remain healthy. In the Middle East, this deficiency impacts women more than men as a result of clothing habits as well. As little as 15 minutes of direct sun exposure a day on the face, arms and hands can keep us healthy.

Dr Haq, you developed a new means of testing Vitamin D levels, how does it improve on what came before?

Previous technologies did not provide a comprehensive look at both D2 and D3 levels in the human body in order to provide a proper assessment of Vitamin D levels in patients. Now we are able to do so, especially with the help of solutions provided by Roche Diagnostics that gives a quantitative determination of total vitamin D in adults. Patients on vitamin D supplements can now be monitored effectively as well thanks to the consistency of the testing results.

How do you think the International Vitamin D Conference impacts the public’s awareness of Vitamin deficiency?

I strongly believe in continuous efforts to bring this issue to light and raise the public’s awareness to take the appropriate measures necessary to remain healthy. Every year, the number of participating delegates has been on the rise at the conference, confirming our belief in the importance of the issue. We are confident that research and awareness efforts in thus field will be of critical value to both healthcare providers and the public.

Raising awareness of autism spectrum disorder

Autism is a brain developmental disorder that affects how a person interacts and communicates with other people. While all people with autism spectrum disorder share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. For example, some people with autism can live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sound, touch, light, smell and taste.

It can be difficult to create awareness of autism as people with the condition do not ‘look’ disabled – parents of children with autism often say that people think their child is naughty, while autistic adults find that they are misunderstood. All people with autism can benefit from a timely diagnosis and access to appropriate services and support.

April 2nd was declared World Autism Awareness Day by the United Nations to bring international attention to autism, raise awareness and highlight the insufficient support that patients receive.

Around the world many countries honoured the day with various campaign launches and fundraising events to increase awareness. Here in the UK, the National Autistic Society arranged a week-long run of events including sponsored night walks through London and baking cakes. Schools were actively encouraged to participate and the Society’s website dedicated some pages with fundraising ideas and tips to raise money for those needing support.

In the US, autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder and now affects 1 in 68 children. Many celebrities there, including actor William Shatner and singer Toni Braxton, took to Twitter to support the ‘Light it up blue’ campaign to raise awareness for autism spectrum disorders. This international effort encourages iconic buildings and landmarks around the world to illuminate in blue, the official colour of autism awareness. Last year, nearly 3,000 buildings in over 600 cities and 45 countries were illuminated in blue. These included the Empire State Building in New York, Tokyo Tower in Japan, the Sydney Opera House in Australia and Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, as well as museums, bridges, airports and concert halls around the world.

The Dubai Autism Centre (DAC) celebrated the day by vowing to get autistic children integrated into society. It launched a campaign ‘Accept me the way I am, I am a child of autism’, a message being relayed across schools, communities and families. Since November, Goals UAE have organised after-school football training sessions for children with autism, raising awareness and also helping to integrate autistic children into the community. One of the problems that children with autism have to deal with is the inability to engage in group activities and interact with others, making sports a great way to help with integration.

However, it is not just children that need support. For many parents of autism sufferers, the big concern is not about passing exams at school, but what happens as they get older. They hope that their child is going to be as independent as they can be, and be as safe and happy as possible as an adult. In March next year, the UAE will hold its first international disabilities and special-needs conference to share expertise and discuss ways of increasing inclusion in schools and workplaces. Businesses are being encouraged to open their doors to the idea of employees with disabilities.

Events such as World Autism Awareness Day go a long way to helping not only those suffering with autism, but educating those who know little about it. As more and more campaigns are launched, we can all do our bit to spread the word and open our doors – as well as our hearts – to those suffering with this condition.

Durbin PLC is a British company based in South Harrow, London. Established for over 50 years, Durbin is a global specialist distributor operating in niche areas of pharmaceutical and medical distribution. Comprising of eight specialist divisions, Durbin prides itself on being a trusted global partner to healthcare manufacturers. The company is fully licensed by the UK MHRA, USA Pharmacy Authorities and DEA. Durbin has offices in the UK and in the USA so can provide US, UK and European products directly from source. Web address: Email:  

 Date of upload: 10th May 2015


                                               Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved.