Factors influencing nutritional status and food consumption patterns of children with cancer: a case of Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya
Kuria, E. N.
Waudo, Judith N.
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Observations at the Kenyatta National Hospital wards prior to the research period indicated a marked increase in cases of child cancer patients being admitted with various complications. These complications interfered with the children’s food consumption patterns as there was increased morbidity and infections since the immunity of these children was weakened and they were not able to fight the disease effectively. The purpose of this study was to investigate the factors influencing nutritional status and food consumption patterns of children with cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital. A descriptive survey design was used. The study sample was made up of 60 children aged 6 months’ to14 years and 15 service providers. Purposive sampling was used. Data collection instruments included a self-administered questionnaire, an interview schedule, anthropometry, 24 hour dietary recall and an observation checklist. Data was analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences Programme. Research findings revealed that 32% of the children were stunted, 26% were underweight while 12% were wasted. The findings confirmed that all the 18.3% children in the advanced stage of the disease were malnourished. A majority (88.5%) of the children’s food intake was affected by the type of treatment received while the disease process affected 71.8% of the patient’s food intake. Most of these interferences occurred in the middle (55%) and advanced stages (18.3%) of the disease. Therefore as treatment becomes more vigorous and as the disease advances the patients tend to develop more nutritional problems since their food intake is affected. From the findings of this study, it is concluded that food consumption patterns of children with cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital were influenced by the following factors: type of cancer a child suffered from, stage of the disease, duration of cancer disease and therapy used to manage their conditions. In view of these findings, the study recommends that nutritionists should emphasize the importance of adherence to the amounts of nutrients recommended for individual child cancer patients.