Effect of a nutrition education programme on nutritional status of children aged 3 - 5 years in Limpopo Province, South Africa
Background. Globally, the prevalence of chronic and acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency is high in young children, especially in developing countries. Nutrition education is an important intervention to address these challenges.
Objective. To determine the nutritional (anthropometric and micronutrient) status of children aged 3 - 5 years at baseline and post intervention.
Methods. A pre-test–post-test control group design was chosen, which included eight villages (four villages in the experimental group (E); four villages in the control group (C)). The Nutrition Education Intervention Programme (NEIP) comprised ten topics emphasising healthy eating, hygiene and sanitation.
Results. At baseline, 15% (E) - 22.4% (C) of children were stunted. Very few children were underweight in both groups (E = 2.5%; C = 8.2%) and only 2.5% of children were wasted in the E group at baseline. At baseline, about a third of children in both groups (E = 38.5%; C = 30.8%) had marginal vitamin A status (100 - 199.9 μg/L), while <10% in the E group (E = 7.7%) had vitamin A deficiency (<100 μg/L). According to the categories for indicators of iron status, the number of children who were in the ‘adequate’ category for serum iron, serum ferritin, serum transferrin and percentage transferrin saturation did not change in both groups at postintervention assessment. In both groups, nutritional status of children (both anthropometric and blood variables) did not change significantly following intervention.
Conclusion. The nutrition intervention did not have a significant effect on indicators of nutritional status, possibly owing to its short duration (12 months) and the fact that food supplementation was not included.