Factors Influencing Vitamin A Status of Lactating Mothers in Manyara and Shinyanga Regions of Tanzania
Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) is a major public health problem that the world is facing today. It is more prevalent in low income countries including Tanzania. This study was conducted to determine factors influencing Vitamin A status of lactating mothers in selected regions of Manyara and Shinyanga, Tanzania. Purposive and random sampling were used to obtain a sample of 569 lactating mothers categorized in age groups - young age (15-19 years) middle age (20-34 years) and elderly (35-49 years). Results showed that, majority of households (98%) were headed by males. Prevalence of VAD was of public health significance (prevalence >50%) among the lactating mothers in all the districts studied. Prevalence of VAD among the lactating mothers was 88.5% for young mothers, 84.6% for middle age mothers and 86.3% for elderly mothers. Vitamin A status of the lactating mothers was significantly (P<0.05) associated with residence. Majority of lactating mothers (68%) lacked knowledge about vitamin A and fortified oil (98.2%). Most of the lactating mothers (87%) had positive attitude towards consumption of vitamin A, however, consumption of vitamin A rich foods and fortified foods was generally low. Only 40% of the lactating mothers consumed animal products, 30% consumed yellow/orange fruits while 20% consumed yellow/ orange root foods including orange fleshed sweet potatoes. It was concluded from this study that, prevalence of VAD among lactating women was high. Residence was the major factor that significantly influenced vitamin A status. Therefore it was recommended based on this study that, to address the vitamin A deficiency problem, nutrition and healthy planners should put more efforts on food fortification especially of edible oil and promote consumption of diverse diets household level. Also they should educate lactating mothers and the community as a whole on the importance of consuming fortified oil and selection of foods rich in vitamin A. The community should further be educated on how to identify the fortified oil in the market by recognizing the fortification logo on the packages and/or reading the label before buying the oil or other fortified foods.
Keywords: Vitamin A status, lactating mothers, socio-economic factors, Tanzania