EFFECT OF NUTRITION EDUCATION ON NUTRITIONAL STATUS AND GROWTH OF YOUNG CHILDREN
This study has two major components: a baseline cross-section survey conducted to assess feeding behaviors and children’s nutritional status and an intervention conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of a nutrition education program on feeding practices of caregivers and nutritional status of their young children.
The baseline cross-sectional survey shows that malnutrition was a problem of public health concern in the study sites. Stunting affected 24.4% of the 204 children assessed, 9.9% were underweight, 39.8% were anemic, while 37.9% were vitamin A deficient. Food selection patterns suggest that bananas were the major staple while beans were the major relish and protein source. Diets of children were limited in variety and possibly inadequate to support normal growth.
The intervention was designed to change the caregivers’ food selection patterns to ensure that young children get adequate calories and nutrients. Two groups of caregivers and their children participated in the intervention. One group of caregivers attended nutrition education classes whereas the controls concurrently participated in sewing
classes that lasted 5 weeks. Children were weighed and measured each month for one year.
Compared to controls, caregivers in the intervention group reported selecting an increased variety of grains, fats and sweets, legumes, meats, fruits, and vegetables one month after the intervention (Time 2) and nine months later (Time 3). The intervention group also provided young children with more snacks than the controls at Time 2 (Mean: 1.26 versus 0.35, p = 0.000) and at Time 3 (Mean: 1.22 versus 0.58, p = 0 .001), but no changes were observed in number of meals. Children in the intervention group also had improved vitamin A status (Mean change retinol binding protein concentration = 0.24 µmol/L versus 0.04 µmol/L) and growth (Mean weight-for-age: 0.61 ± 0.15 versus -0.99 ± 0.16, p = .038).
Overall, the intervention was effective in improving caregivers’ food selection practices and meal planning skills and improved children’s nutritional status and growth. However, improvement in nutritional status and growth might have been compromised by the high prevalence of infections, seasonal food shortages, and the heavy workloads of caregivers.
KEY WORDS: Nutrition education, Intervention, Feeding practices, Malnutrition, Vitamin A, Anemia, Growth, Diets, Infections,