It’s Friday morning. I’m just settling in, checking my email, coffee in hand, when the Director of Digital Marketing walks into my office.
“What’s on your schedule for Monday?” he asks.
I consult my task list. “Just assignments you gave me, actually.”
“Bump them. We’re going for a drive.”
Several minutes and some arm-twisting later, I’ve pieced together both the reason for and the destination of this field trip: We’re going to Santa Barbara to deliver 800 bottles of NatureWise Vitamin D3 to the Cottage Center for Population Health. These bottles, and 2,200 others slated for later delivery, will serve as additions to preventive care packages that will be assembled for public distribution, with any left over going to frontline healthcare workers.
The Cottage Center for Population Health plans to offer these packages to members of the Latinx community in the greater Santa Barbara area, as the pandemic has disproportionately affected this ethnic group that constitutes 40% of Californians. The Center will also provide educational resources and the opportunity to connect with a resource navigator who can facilitate access to healthcare services.
The three of us set off on Monday, December 13 – the Director of Digital Marketing, the Marketing Director, and me, the Marketing Copywriter. Aside from passing a burning car on the freeway, the trip passes in an uneventful blur of sunshine and ocean views.
We meet up with Dr. Richard Mazess, a retired Professor of Medical Physics at the University of Wisconsin who now lives in Santa Barbara and collaborates with a group of the world’s foremost vitamin D researchers to educate public health officials and raise awareness about the dangers of vitamin D deficiency. It’s thanks to his exceedingly generous donation that 3,000 bottles of Vitamin D3 were purchased for inclusion in these care packages, which will also contain personal protective items such as face masks and hand sanitizer.
Over a delicious outdoor lunch, Dr. Mazess fills us in on his background and the trajectory that led to his acute interest in the benefits of vitamin D. A pioneer in the field of bone densitometry, he also developed a vitamin D analog approved for end-stage kidney disease. As a result, he has an in-depth understanding of the major role vitamin D plays in the immune system as well as in calcium metabolism.
Using an open letter that cites credible research indicating the role vitamin D plays in regulating various functions of the immune system, Dr. Mazess and his colleagues call for “immediate widespread increased vitamin D intakes,” especially in population groups at greatest risk for deficiency in this crucial nutrient – a list that includes those with higher concentrations of melanin in the skin.
The evidence gathered to date strongly suggests that “increased vitamin D would help reduce infections, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths.” As a nutrient backed by years of safety data that can be easily obtained without a prescription, vitamin D is regarded as “the most easily and quickly modifiable risk factor with abundant evidence to support a large effect.”
Dr. Mazess’ endeavors to educate both the healthcare community and the population at large have already seen success, as two prominent Santa Barbara medical groups with COVID-19 outreach programs now include information on vitamin D in their approach to spreading awareness about COVID-19 prevention methods.
The NatureWise team is thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Dr. Mazess and the Cottage Center for Population Health, and we hope to carry this momentum forward into future joint enterprises for continued service to our community.