Improving Child Nutrition in Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia to Prevent Non-Communicable Diseases
Researchers have identified changes in nutrition in Africa as one of the main causes of the rising epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This research project will assess the food consumption patterns and nutrition status of children to set the stage for an intervention research project to address the problem. The nutrition transition in many African countries is characterized by the increased consumption of foods that are low in nutrients but high in fat, sugar, and salt. More evidence is needed to define the characteristics and determinants of this transition among different population groups. There is a paucity of research examining key nutrition and NCD factors: -food consumption patterns in school-aged children; -how these patterns may lead to NCDs later in life; and, -what interventions are needed to influence diet behaviour in that population. This project's main aim is to assess children's food consumption patterns and nutrition status between the ages of 6 and 14 years of age. The study will take place in selected urban areas in Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia. It will provide key information for a future intervention research project. Researchers will study children at nine schools in each country, representing high, middle, and low-income groups. They will use the following data collection techniques: -questionnaires with 2,176 respondents; -urine analysis to assess sodium, calcium, and potassium levels; -in-depth interviews with school administrators; and, -food diaries, which a sample of the children will complete. The research team will also study the children's meal sources; in other words, whether food is provided in school, carried from home, or purchased at or outside the school. This project offers a unique opportunity to provide evidence to inform program and policy design that will help prevent and control NCDs in Africa. The research team will share results through in-country workshops, websites, and peer review journals. They will implement the project in partnership with the Ministries of Health, Education, and Local Governments in Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia.