Factors influencing nutritional status of preschool children in Kimilili Division- Bungoma District
Waswa, Maruti Lydiah
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Malnutrition continues to be a public health problem of considerable magnitude in most developing countries. Efforts to combat it focus primarily on preventive and curative healthcare services. The underlying factors, which affect nutritional status, have not been given adequate attention. The main objective of this study was to investigate factors influencing nutritional status of preschool children in Kimilili division, Bungoma District. Data for this study were collected using an interview schedule and an observation checklist. Information on the social-economic and demographic characteristics of the households, child nutritional and health status, feeding habits of the children and environmental sanitation were collected using a cross sectional descriptive survey of 350 households. The sampling unit was the household. These were selected using simple random sampling procedures. Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Frequencies, means and percentages were used to organize, describe and summarize demographic data whereas Pearson Product Moment Correlation (r) was used to test for statistical associations and differences between the nutritional status of the preschool children and the socio-economic and demographic variables and child feeding practices of the mothers. Epi Info software was used to combine the raw data on the variables (age, sex, height and weight) to compute nutritional indices weight-for age, height-for age and height-for weight. These were assessed relative to the National Center for Health Statistics and World Health Organization (NCHS/WHO) International growth reference with cut off points of below -2SD Z Scores. Out of the 350 children assessed, 31% were stunted, 30% were underweight whilst 16% were wasted. The findings of the study revealed that the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding was low with 95% of the children having received complementary foods by the fourth-fifth months. The longest breastfeeding duration amongst the mothers was between 13-18 months and most children stopped breastfeeding during this period and this was attributed to the next pregnancy. Slightly less than a quarter of the mothers had lost either one or two preschool children. Malaria, diarrhoea, measles and diseases of the upper respiratory tract were reported to be the major causes of death among preschool children. A strong positive relationship was found to exist between stunting and underweight, and between underweight and wasting which implied that age is a factor in weight and height gain. No significant relationships were found between nutritional status of the preschool children and the various maternal characteristics such as mother's age, marital status, income and length of breastfeeding. However, relationships between nutrition status of preschool children and education of mother, meal frequency, presence of illness, persistent illnesses, age of introducing other foods, age of the child and continued breastfeeding after introducing other foods were found to be generally weak but significant. This implied that these factors though important, are not the only critical determinants in assuring proper nutritional status among preschool children. As such, an overall improvement of incomes and the living standards would improve the nutritional status of the preschool children.