Dietary practices, nutritional status and school performance among upper primary children in selected public schools in Nairobi County, Kenya
Githinji, W. Phrashiah
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Dietary practices influence nutritional status of school aged children and also impact on their school performance. The ability of pupils to engage in school activities and to perform well in school is dependent on a diet that supplies all the required nutrients. There is the emergence of the dual burden of malnutrition in urban setups like Nairobi and yet there is limited information on the effect of these on school performance. The main objective of this study was to investigate dietary practices, nutritional status and school performance among children in upper primary in selected public primary schools in Nairobi County, Kenya. The independent variable of the study was children’s dietary practices. Nutritional status was the intermediate variable, while the dependent variable was school performance. The participants of the study comprised of 256 pupils who were 142 boys and 114 girls, selected through simple random sampling and systematic random sampling techniques. Data was collected using a researcher’s administered questionnaire on school performance, 24 hour dietary recall schedule, food frequency questionnaire for assessing dietary practices and focus group discussion guide. Data on nutritional status was obtained using anthropometric measures from the children. A cross-sectional analytical design was employed. To analyze the collected data SPSS and Nutri-Survey were used. The relationships between the variables were examined using spearman rank correlation statistics. The findings confirmed that there is the dual burden of malnutrition among adolescent school children in Nairobi County: (8.6% were overweight while 9% were undernourished). On dietary practices and school performance, the study established that food adequacy positively influences school performance particularly in extra-curriculum activities (rs = 0.132*; P (0.035) < 0.05). Higher consumption of food groups such as cereal (rs = 0.184**; P (0.003) < 0.05), meats (rs = 0.159*; P (0.011), fruits (rs = 0.163**; P (0.009) < 0.05) and other vegetables (rs=0.128*; P (0.04) < 0.05 also seemed to exert positive influence on school performance. As for the data on dietary practices and classroom activities; it showed no significant relationship between the two variables. However, on nutritional status children with higher Z-scores/ BMI were found to be more likely to be inactive during field games and they preferred sitting in the field during physical activities (rs =0.158*; P ≤ 0.05). Children within normal weight for their age showed higher chances of performing well in classroom activities such as completion of assignments (rs = 0.133; P ≤ 0.05). This study recommends policy change through the ministry of education to ensure scaling up of feeding programmes in public primary schools. The study also recommends nutritional education for parents on dietary practices of children. Moreover, the study recommends that children should be taught nutrition and the health impacts of their dietary practices.