Nutrition Education on Iron Status of Primary School Pupils of Gatanga Sub-County, Kenya
Gitau, Gladys Njura
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Anaemia can affect the cognitive function, motor performance and educational achievements of school age children as they grow and learn. Nutrition education has not been given priority in primary schools due to the busy school curriculum. Nutrition Education is concerned with changing an individual’s behaviour. It is in this light that this study was designed. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of three main nutrition education facilitators on nutrition knowledge. The facilitators used were the researcher, 5 peer educators and an Agriculture Extension official using the FAO curriculum chart. A baseline survey was conducted in 12 randomly selected schools for 601 class six pupils and 67 households. All pupils’ (154) in class six in the intervention schools participated in nutrition knowledge at pre and post-test, with a random sample of 89 proportionate pupils' for each school for biochemical data at baseline and 79 pupils’ at endline. Questionnaires and an interview schedule were used to collect data with pre and post tests. Dietary intake, biochemical data on haemoglobin levels and stool among others were assessed. The experimental schools were Mabanda, Kigio and Kirwara and the control Gakurari. Baseline data were analyzed by use of Nutri-Survey software for nutrient analysis and Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 17 for descriptive and inferential statistics. The data were coded to search for emerging themes. This led to the identification of variables and concepts of iron deficiency in the children, which was crucial to the design of the corrective measures model for the interventions. On average, the mean mark in nutrition knowledge at baseline was 30.05% which was low. In the post-tests; all experimental schools significantly improved in nutrition knowledge. The peer facilitated school performed best with (51.52+24.79) marks, researcher facilitated scored (49.67+22.23), and the agriculture staff facilitated scored (39.29+9.87). The pre-test post- test improvement in the control school (29.6+14.0 to 31.21+12.74) was however not significant (p>0.05). A total of 31.4 % pupils were found to be anaemic after altitude adjustments at a calculated factor 0.5 for Gatanga altitude (2237m ASL). The prevalence of intestinal parasites was 63.1%; Entamoeba histolytica accounted for 61.3% and Ascaris lumbricoides 1.8%. Improvement in the adoption and use of the projects that enhance nutrition and health significantly occurred in the experimental schools as opposed to the control school. Pupils’ haemoglobin status were not significantly different (p>0.05) between the experimental and control schools at baseline. However, notable differences in haemoglobin levels occurred in the experimental schools after the interventions. The relationship between nutrition knowledge and nutrient intake was positive and there was a significant relationship between nutrition knowledge and haemoglobin levels at p<0.05 (r=0.253, p=0.025). Anaemia and parasitic infestation were found to be a significant problem and the need for comprehensive intervention strategies by all stakeholders like deworming and growing of iron rich foods. The study findings would contribute towards operationalization of the national school health policy and guidelines, the national food security and nutrition policy in prevention and control of IDA by enhancing nutrition education.