A World Of Good: Global Health In The Eyes Of Aldeir

Fighting disease and building strong bones starts young.

One thing unites us no matter where we live or how much money we make, and that's a desire to be both happy and healthy.

What's cool about that is, no matter your age, background, or the region where we reside, we all need many of the same vitamins. And how exciting is it knowing you can do your part to make sure others — and you — get what we need to reach optimum health?

Click on any of the photos above to learn about the unique vitamin needs of boys, girls, women, and men all over the world. Though they may differ, we can each learn how we can work toward our individual and common goal of living happy and healthy lives.

Meet Aldeir.

Aldeir is a 4-year-old boy who lives on San Cristóbal Island in Panama.

While you may think of Panama as a place with beautiful beaches to go snorkeling, it's also a place where water for the locals may be contaminated. That reality makes Aldeir's ability to stay healthy, gain weight, and grow even more difficult than it would be in some other environments. Fortunately, Aldeir is taking supplements from Vitamin Angels — a nonprofit that distributes vitamins and minerals to children and mothers in need.

By taking multivitamins that contain critical nutrients such as vitamin A and calcium, Aldeir has managed to build and maintain a strong immune system that has helped him fight off diseases and illnesses.

Ernesto, Aldeir's father, knows that the vitamins help not only his son, but also the community as a whole.

A lack of vitamin A can lead to catching infectious diseases.

Children on San Cristóbal Island may be at risk for infectious diseases, including the measles, and minor conditions such as diarrhea. A 2011 review by the World Health Organization suggested that vitamin A deficiency increased the likelihood of contracting respiratory tract infections, cases of the measles associated with pneumonia, and diarrhea — and argued that "large doses of vitamin A have a clear protective effect."

Vitamin A is best obtained by taking supplements or eating vitamin-rich foods. Unfortunately, some of the best sources for vitamin A (liver, fish, sweet potatoes, kale, and dried apricots) are so expensive that it's hard for people in places such as San Cristóbal Island to obtain them. That's why providing vitamins is so important for kids like Aldeir.

If consumed as a high dose treatment, which is recommended only for at-risk children, he only needs one every six months

Vitamin A is extremely important for Aldeir, but so is calcium.

Milk, cheese, tofu, coconuts, and sardines are all great sources of calcium, according to the National Institutes of Health. That's important to know for boys like Aldeir, who will need lots of calcium to maintain strong bones throughout adolescence and adulthood.

What people might not know about calcium is that it also plays a central role in muscle contraction and the nervous system. It even participates in the release of hormones, and when the body is low on calcium, it pulls it from the bones, which is why calcium deficiencies are often associated with brittle, much-easier-to-break bones — and childhood is an important time for bone-building.

Aldeir is not the only person who needs calcium, however. Fifty-nine-year-old Danute from Lithuania also needs calcium. Click on Danute's photo, highlighted in purple, to find out how the two of them are connected by their vitamin need, or explore the rest of the profiles below.

Want to help people around the world get access to vitamins? For every purchase of vitamins and minerals at Walgreens, they will make a donation to Vitamin Angels.

Statements about vitamin deficiencies, the benefits of vitamin B and recommended doses are not endorsed by or representative of opinions from Vitamin Angels.

Vitamin Angels Photos © Matt Dayka/Vitamin Angels