Reducing hypovitaminosis D among Somali immigrants in Minnesota: a narrative review

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International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare


Purpose: Somalia is an East African nation with a history of civil unrest that produced a significant influx of refugees in the USA in the last 25 years. Between 2000 and 2010, 40 percent of all US Somali refugees settled in Minnesota, which produces new cultural and health challenges for local communities and the state government. One such challenge is vitamin D deficiency, or hypovitaminosis D (Hv-D). Hv-D is developed through insufficient exposure to sunlight and low nutrient intake leading to increased risk for weakness and inflammation, oral health problems, diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases and malignancies. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: In this narrative review, demographic, geographic and cultural information about Somali immigration are discussed. Findings: Recent data suggest Somalis living in northern climates (Minnesota, the USA, Helsinki, Finland, Sweden and the UK) experience significant deficiencies in vitamin D. Vitamin D is stimulated by ultraviolet light exposure, a balanced and healthy diet, and dietary supplementation. High unemployment rates affecting access to health information and clinical services, significant cultural differences and climate differences pre-dispose this population to Hv-D. Health education and health promotion programming at the community and state levels in Minnesota should recognize the risk factors associated with Hv-D and the vulnerability of Somali refugees. Originality/value: Current and future health programming should be re-assessed for adequate attention to vitamin D deficiency and cultural competency associated with the Somali immigrant population.

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