Contribution of Nutrition Education to Healthy Food Choices Among Primary School Pupils in Nyeri County, Kenya
Waithaka, Simon Runo
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In Kenya, nutrition education is included in the school curriculum as recommended in the year 2009 national school health policy. Nevertheless, policy advocacy and communication strategies on nutrition education are relatively weak, and there is insufficient focus on operational research on nutrition. In addition, nutrition education is not taught as a standalone subject and is only infused in science subjects. Consequently, the malnutrition problem is not as well understood as it could be. Today‟s form of malnutrition consists of over-consumption of energy dense and fatty foods. These have led to an upsurge of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes, bone and heart conditions. Therefore, there was need to explore influence of nutrition education on eating habits in order to help pupils acquire discriminative skills that can enable them make healthy food choices. The pupils can act as agents of change in the community through the symbiotic relationship that exists between the school and the society. This will be the first step towards curbing food-related health problem. The purpose of this study was to determine the contributions of nutrition education in enabling pupils to make healthy food choices. The Health Belief Model as a predictor of preventive health behaviour was the guiding theory for this research. The study was mainly descriptive in design with purposive and random sampling as the key sampling techniques. The target population was 30 primary schools in Nyeri County, 570 teachers, 1950 pupils in class seven, 1910 Class seven parents. The sample size was 3 primary schools, 57 teachers, 191 parents and 195 class seven pupils. This was representative of 10% of the target population. Data collection tools were semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, food diary, and Food Frequency Questionnaire. Data was analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively guided by the themes from research objectives. Quantitative data was analysed using basic descriptive statistics and presented in form of tables, pie charts, graphs, and percentages. The Qualitative analysis involved narrative records and informants‟ quotations. The study findings showed that nutrition education was scant for pupils‟ and healthy eating was not sustained. The study concluded that knowledge alone is not sufficient to influence behaviour and parents should model on healthy eating as pupils depend on them for food. Additionally, mediating factors, such as access to the target food and outcome expectations, and the modern lifestyle of snacking and convenience eating have been affecting food choice. Knowledge on unhealthy food choices and non-communicable diseases should be included in the competency based curriculum. The study findings may be used by the Ministry of education to inform nutrition education content in the school curriculum.