Nutrition knowledge and food consumption practices and barriers in rural Ghana: The case of foods for preventing vitamin A and iron deficiencies
Food-based approaches such as dietary diversification, nutrient retention and biofortification combined with nutrition education can be effective in eliminating micronutrient deficiencies. The objective of this study was to assess the nutrition knowledge and consumption practices as well as barriers to consumption with specific focus on food-based approaches to vitamin A and iron deficiencies prevention and to identify individual, community and governmental level strategies that may facilitate the adoption of these approaches. Using qualitative methods, one focus group (FG) discussion each was conducted with members of the Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperatives in each of the 25 rural communities in the Amansie West and Asunafo North Districts in Ghana. Findings showed participants in only 3 FGs had knowledge of vitamin A and its deficiency diseases while only 2 FGs had knowledge of foods that could prevent vitamin A deficiency. Participants in 23 FGs were aware of the occurrence of iron deficiency anaemia especially in pregnant women; however, only 8 FGs had knowledge of the causes of anaemia. Furthermore, all the 25 FGs mentioned the use of haematinics in the treatment and prevention of anaemia but only 4 FGs knew about the use of food-based approaches. Various types of animal products, vegetables, fruits, and legumes, which are useful in preventing vitamin A and iron deficiencies, were found to be available in the communities. However, participants in all the 25 FGs indicated that the consumption of these foods particularly dark-green leafy vegetables has been dwindling with time. The FG participants mentioned a number of barriers to consumption of these foods and they include inadequate knowledge of nutritional value of the foods, lack of cooking skill, low production levels, laziness, conflicting media reports, lack of storage facilities, and contamination with agrochemicals. Findings imply that nutrition interventions should focus on education and awareness creation and implementation of strategies that can remove consumption barriers and facilitate the adoption of food-based approaches for managing micronutrient deficiencies.
Key words: Vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency, nutrition knowledge, consumption practices, barriers