This summer, Anita Chary, Kelley Brown, and I spent two weeks in the Bocacosta, in Chocola, conducting research in nearby aldeas where our organization provides lipid-based supplements to young children. Kelley talked with mothers about their conceptualizations of malnutrition and good feeding practices. Anita led focus groups with the mothers and fathers. We also interviewed local community leaders and health promoters. For a market analysis of available food, I interviewed owners of pharmacies and shops in the rural aldeas and urban centers of Chocolá and San Antonio about the products they sell and what their customers purchase.
With these data, we hope to better understand what rural families know about nutrition, what food options are available to families, how parents choose what to feed their children, and how socioeconomic factors influence chronic childhood malnutrition. Currently, we are analyzing the data to identify ways we can ensure that more children benefit from the nutrition program.
My intern year focuses on environmental health concerns, so I spend most of my time finding and understanding how factors like wood smoke, unclean water, and pesticides affect health. Working with the nutrition project provided me a refreshed, holistic perspective of health. For instance, chronic childhood malnutrition can be exacerbated by illnesses caused by environmental factors like a diarrhea l disease from drinking unclean water or a respiratory infection influenced by breathing in wood smoke every day.
I am proud to work with an organization that seeks to improve health from diverse angles and recognizes that in order to improve the health of children in rural communities we should not only provide nutrition supplements but also understand the many different social, environmental, and economic aspects that seriously impact their health. By promoting other basic rights such as access to clean water, primary medical care, and health education we are doing more than just addressing the symptoms, but pushing to make change to the system. Hopefully in the future, after the research on environmental health is completed, we can approach other barriers to good health such as clean air in the home.