Program Update – Nutrition

I just got back from a very encouraging trip to Guatemala to kick off the new year. As some of our supporters know, this past summer and fall we were engaged in a lengthy evaluation of our nutrition outreach programs. In particular, we were trying to figure out what educational elements of our programs we could improve, in order to produce some incremental improvements in our child growth outcomes. As such, we focused very closely on trying to figure out in more detail than we ever have before how foods are being introduced to infants and young children’s, how processed foods might be encroaching on healthier foods, and what other family dynamics might be contributing to poor child growth. Data was collected primarily through caregiver interviews, which were conducted in a very confidential, culturally sensitive way, in Kaqchikel.

One of the most compelling findings was how caregivers, especially young or first-time mothers, told us that they did not feel well educated as they attempt to figure out to care for their children, in particular regarding which types and quantities of foods were best for their children. When I shared these findings with our community leaders in each nutrition program last week, they strongly endorsed this area as something that they want to tackle aggressively this year. We spent several days brainstorming with community leaders and with core staff about how best to proceed.

For the moment, there seems to be consensus around especially targeting interventions to first time mothers, and therefore one of our educational specialists will be working with community leaders to design this curriculum, which will likely consist of a mixture of home visits by our health staff, together with small peer support groups for mothers. Another area that was suggested by our community leaders was attempting to combine our previously successful women’s health/sexual health education classes with child nutrition activities, and so our nursing staff, who run our women’s health programs, will be working closely with our educational specialists to make this happen.

We are also excited that we have two Harvard Medical Students who will be living in Guatemala this year to help our staff with the development of these new educational resources!

We’ll keep you updated this year as these activities unfold.