The nutritional status of pre-school children in Malukazi : a study of nutritional status using anthropometric measuments and dietary intake, and selected ecological factors which may impinge on nutritional status, in 3-6 year old children in Malukazi.
Nutrition education is recognised as being of value in the prevention of malnutrition. However, in order for it to be effective, an in-depth study of the community prior to the implementation of any nutrition education programme is essential. A study of the nutritional status of pre-school children in Malukazi (an informal, unplanned Black township in the greater Durban area) together with background information on the household and the childminder was therefore undertaken, so that recommendations for a nutrition education programme in the area could be made. The relationship between nutritional status and certain ecological variables was also studied in order to determine which of these, if any, was a significant factor in the development of malnutrition. Nutritional status was assessed by using anthropometric measures (height and weight) and dietary intake (24-hour recall and food frequency). Background information obtained included socio-economic status; food purchasing, preparation and storage patterns; intrafamilial pattern of eating; food taboos; clinic attendance; and the childminder's sage, educational level, body size, nutritional knowledge and attitude towards nutrition education. Information was obtained by means of face-to-face interviews using a single, trained interviewer. The incidence of low weight-for-age was relatively low and that of low height-for-age ("stunting") considerably higher (14,2% and 47,3% below the 3rd percentile respectively), indicating that chronic malnutrition is a serious problem in this community. Information on dietary intake showed that intakes of several nutrients notably energy, calcium, vitamin A, ascorbic acid and vitamin D were low for the study population. The percentage of total energy provided by the various macronutrients was however in line with recommendations, which tends to indicate that the greatest need is for an overall increase in food intake. Of the ecological variables studied, only two were found to be significantly associated with the incidence of malnutrition. These were the number of children cared for by the childminder (p=0,04) and whether or not the household grew their own vegetables (p=0,02). The degree of malnutrition found to exist in this community, together with the unsatisfactory level of nutritional knowledge of the childminders and their apparent willingness to learn more, revealed the desirability for further nutrition education in this area. Recommendations regarding future nutrition education programmes for this community based on the findings of the study are submitted.