Promoting dietary diversity to improve child growth in less-resourced rural settings in Uganda

Authors


Abstract

Background

Analyses of global trends indicate that childhood undernutrition is more prevalent in rural areas, and also that maternal education and decision-making power are among the key factors significantly associated with child growth.

Methods

The present study comprised a controlled longitudinal study aiming to assess the effectiveness of nutrition education with respect to improving growth patterns of young children of less-literate, low income caregivers in a rural subsistence farming community. Caregivers in the intervention group (n = 52) attended a structured nutrition education programme, whereas the control group (n = 45) participated in sewing classes. Weights and lengths/heights were measured for children in the intervention and control groups every month for 1 year to assess changes in growth patterns. Repeated measures analysis of covariance was used to access differences between the two groups over time and across age groups. Variability in growth patterns of individual children and clustering of caregiver effects were controlled for during the statistical analysis.

Results

After 12 months, children in the intervention group had significant improvements in weight-for-age compared to the controls [mean (SD): 0.61 (0.15) versus −0.99 (0.16), = 0.038]. Changes in height-for-age, weight-for-height and mid-upper arm circumference-for-age showed a positive trend for children in the intervention group. Changes in weight-for-height were statistically significant across age groups and negatively related to caregiver's age.

Conclusions

Educating caregivers has the potential to improve young children's nutritional status and growth, especially among less literate populations where households subsist on what they produce.

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