Improving nutrition through education

|

Dear friends, as I’ve written to you frequently over the last few years, we’ve been working hard to complement the core activities of this program, which include medical care and nutritional supplementation, with additional educational and support activities for mothers and fathers of young children.

Although education can’t solve all problems, it is an important part of a comprehensive solution. For example, in a report we recently published , we discovered that many parents struggled to understand the manifestations of chronic malnutrition in their children and, therefore, tended to present late for medical evaluation. Similarly, although most parents understood the need to feed their toddlers complementary foods starting at 6 months of age, they were less likely to appreciate the importance of meal frequency and a diverse range of food groups for their children’s health.

Therefore, this year, our health promotion staff have launched an exciting range of new educational activities, which include dynamic small group classes and also individualized home visits. We’ve seen really positive changes in health behaviors and knowledge as a result. For example, when we tested parents’ knowledge before and after their participation, we discovered that, before participation, only 45% of parents felt well prepared to care for children with an episode of acute diarrhea. After participation, that number increased to 71%. As another example, before participation, only 52% of parents had a good sense of how frequently a young child should consume solid foods; after participation, this number increased to 81%.

Most importantly, our staff have been conducting follow-up evaluations of dietary quality in the children of participants. We are seeing that, after participations, children are consuming more food and more diverse foods as a result of their parents’ new knowledge!

In conjunction with our ongoing medical care programs, growth monitoring, and nutritional supplements, we are really excited to see the additional accrued benefit of education to our communities as these programs continue to unfold this year.