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May 27, 2010, - - Program Now Offering Free Samples at Coca-Cola Family Fest --
COLUMBIA, S.C., May 27, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) - - Aetna /quotes/comstock/13*!aet/quotes/nls/aet (AET 29.21, +0.64, +2.24%) , Walgreens /quotes/comstock/13*!wag/quotes/nls/wag (WAG 32.34, +0.42, +1.32%) and the United Way of the Midlands will continue their efforts to raise awareness of the need for adequate vitamin D intake. During the Sunday, May 30 Coca-Cola Family Fest at Columbia's Finlay Park, the three organizations will give away more than 10,000, 100-day supplies of vitamin D
The program is an extension of the vitamin D giveaway program sponsored by Aetna, Walgreens and the United Way earlier this year. All told, the vitamin D awareness efforts will donate more than 25,000 samples.
"We're very gratified to be part of such a positive health outreach effort," said Mark Schmidt, president of Aetna's operations in the Carolinas. "Working with Walgreens and the United Way of the Midlands, we've made significant progress in raising people's awareness of the need for sufficient vitamin D intake.
According to medical experts, vitamin D helps people absorb calcium, strengthening bones and teeth and helping nerves and muscles work correctly. Studies show that three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults do not receive the amount of vitamin D experts believe is necessary for optimal health. This deficiency can weaken bone development, immune function and heart health.
"We are pleased to continue our participation in this program to drive awareness around a health concern that's seldom discussed in many communities," said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens market vice president. "Our goal is for more people to be informed that supporting a proper diet and healthy lifestyle with a vitamin D supplement is a simple step that can have long-term health benefits."
"United Way works to create opportunities for a better life for everyone, and good health is essential not only to personal quality of life, but also to productivity and engagement in our community," said Mac Bennett, president and CEO of United Way of the Midlands. "We all need to become more aware of health risks — and the potential effects they have on our lives and work — to change policies and practices that will enable more people to be healthy."
Because vitamin D is absorbed from the sun's ultraviolet rays, there also is a strong genetic and biological component involved. Darker skin blocks more of the sun's rays, medical experts say, which is why African Americans face the highest risk for vitamin D deficiency. Hispanics have similar risks.
"We've focused our outreach efforts in areas where we can make the biggest positive impact," said Schmidt. The vitamin D giveaway program has targeted Richland and Lexington counties, where the population is approximately 45 percent African American.