Improving Vitamin D status and related health in young women; the Safe-D study – (part A)

Project Details

Vitamin D deficiency is an important health risk for young women, particularly during their potential child-bearing years, and as many as 50% of Australian women are below optimal vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with many chronic health conditions including poor bone and muscle health, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, infections, neurological diseases, cancer, diabetes and adverse mental health outcomes. Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy is associated with adverse outcomes in the offspring. Major causes of vitamin D deficiency are decreased exposure to sunlight and low intake of dietary forms of vitamin D. We will obtain high-quality data on associations between vitamin D status and a broad range of health indices in young women. We propose also to conduct a randomised controlled trial (RCT) in a group of young women to compare the impact of: (1) a behavioural intervention using modern mobile technology to encourage safe levels of sunlight exposure, and (2) a pharmacological intervention to increase vitamin D levels.

The first part of this study (part A) involves recruitment of participants into a cross-sectional study in order to investigate the association of vitamin D (25-OHD) levels with clinical health indices and related laboratory measures: musculoskeletal health (bone density, bone turnover markers, muscle function); mood/mental health; body composition and weight; and atopic/allergic symptoms.  This study will also allow us to identify participants with vitamin D levels of 25-75 nmol/L (expected to be 50% of the respondents), who will be invited to participate in part B of the study (RCT).

This project builds on our recent highly-successful Young Female Health Initiative (YFHI) pilot study and numerous other successful studies with young women.



  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project grant APP1049065

Research Outcomes

  1. Heffernan KJ, Chang S, Maclean ST, Callegari ET, Garland SM, Reavley N, Varigos G, Wark JD. The potential of eHealth Apps to Support Targeted Complex Health Messages. Journal of General Practice. 2014 Oct 29; 2014.
  2. Callegari ET, Reavley N, Garland SM, Gorelik A, Wark JD. Vitamin D status, bone mineral density and mental health in young Australian women: the Safe-D study. Journal of public health research. 2015 Nov 17; 4(3).
  3. Heffernan KJ, Chang S, Maclean ST, Callegari ET, Garland SM, Reavley NJ, Varigos GA, Wark JD. Guidelines and Recommendations for Developing Interactive eHealth Apps for Complex Messaging in Health Promotion. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 2016 Jan; 4(1).
  4. Tabesh M, Garland SM, Gorelik A, Nankervis A, Maclean S, Callegari ET, Chang S, Heffernan K, Wark JD. Improving Vitamin D Status and Related Health in Young Women: The Safe-D study-Part B. JMIR research protocols. 2016 May 10;5(2): e80.

Research Group

Bone and Mineral Research Group

School Research Themes

Women's Health, Infectious Diseases and Immunity

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre


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